Kids on the run: The Mill Race Marathon Fun Run returns in full force

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Children sprint out ahead of the adults in the Kids Fun Run at Mill Race Park in Columbus, Ind., Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.

“Crazy in a great way.”

That was how registration coordinator Kim Bennett described the number of sign-ups for this year’s Kids Fun Run. As of about 6 p.m. Friday, more than 1,600 children were registered.

“It’s a lot busier than I anticipated,” said Sonal Patel, whose children were among that number. “But I think it’s really cool that the community comes out for this.”

Mill Race Marathon Director Randy Stafford said that, as of noon Wednesday, 1,003 children were registered for the Kids Fun Run’s untimed races. Additionally, 451 students were rostered for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s new elementary cross-country league, which had competitive runs at the end of the event.

By Friday night, Bennett said there were an additional 188 registrations, with more last-minute entries coming up even as she spoke.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if our final registration ends up being 1,600 to 1,700 between the competitive and the fun run races,” Stafford said. “Typically we see about a 10% drop, fall-out on people not showing up, but still, we have the potential to have 1,400 to 1,500 kids in the park on Friday night, and then parents and siblings and grandparents and families, so it’s going to be huge.”

Last year’s Kids Fun Run saw more than 1,200 registrants and a total of 1,145 finishers for all runs. All children who cross the finish line receive a medal.

For local schools, student participation is the name of the game. Each elementary school with 20 or more participants in the Kids Fun Run is awarded a $250 gift certificate for sports and exercise equipment; preschools receive $75.

Additionally, elementary schools are sorted into three categories: small, medium and large. The school with the highest participation rate in each category receives a $700 gift certificate and the second highest receives $500. The preschool with the highest participation rate receives $200.

Students who ran in BCSC’s competitive races Friday night will also be counted toward their school’s participation rate for the Kids Fun Run, Stafford said.

In discussing the competitive meet, he said that their course plans had to be reconfigured due to the Exhibit Columbus installation “Echoes of the Hill,” which conflicted with where they planned to put the starting line.

Kenzie Pendleton, a cross-country runner from Columbus North High School, redesigned the course and managed all of the course volunteers for her senior project.

“She has done a really good job on mapping this out and thinking about it from a runner’s standpoint and what makes a nice course,” Stafford said. “Her courses look really good. She’s mapped out all of the courses for us.”

Many of the fun run attendees didn’t seem to mind having the Exhibit Columbus installation around in fact, they saw it as a bit of a jungle gym to play on while they waited to race.

Among the crowd of youngsters at the Kids Fun Run were Lucy Riche, 5, and Clara Riche, 7.

Kim and Steve Riche said their daughters have been participating in the fun run for about three and five years, respectively.

The event gives them “an opportunity to support healthy habits, an interest that hopefully becomes lifelong,” Kim said.

“I don’t think either of us ever ran in a race until we were adults, so it’s nice to have something for their age,” said Steve Richie.

Both girls said they enjoy getting to run with their friends.

For Lucas Mayo, 6, Friday was his first time in the fun run.

“I think it’ll be a good opportunity to be involved with other kids the same age as him,” said mother Ayana Mayo, who planned to run the 5K on Saturday.

Corey and Cierra Shane had the same hopes for their four-year-old daughter, Layani.

“She was born just before COVID hit, so she’s not really socialized,” Cierra said. She added that it also provides a chance for Layani to hear people cheering her on.

“I like to run. I run faster than you,” Layani told Corey.

When asked if he liked to run, 9-year-old Aarin Patel replied, “Yes and no.”

He explained that it’s fun because you can play games that involve running. However, he doesn’t like getting hot and sweaty.

When asked if he’d ever try to run a marathon, he replied, “Maybe once.”

Bennett, who estimated that this is her 11th year working the fun run, got a little choked up when talking about her love of the event.

“For me, running’s an individual thing,” she said. “It’s an activity that every kid can come out and succeed.”

By the numbers

Estimated number of kids registered: 1,642 and counting

Race length, by age group:

  • Tots (4 and under): about 200 meters or 0.12 miles
  • Pre-k and kindergarten with parents: 0.5 kilometers or 0.31 miles
  • Pre-k and kindergarten without parents: 0.5 kilometers or 0.31 miles
  • Grades 1 and 2: 1 kilometer or 0.62 miles
  • Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6: 1.5 kilometers or 0.93 miles
  • BCSC competitive races: 1.5 kilometers or 0.93 miles

Photo Gallery: Kids Fun Run