With a few safety measures in place, the annual United Way of Lamar County Kids Marathon kicked off like usual late Monday afternoon.

“I’m going to run,” Oaklee Sessums said, grinning.

She jokingly added she thought she could do the full 25 miles in five minutes.

Participating students across Lamar County have until May 24 to complete the full course, according to Education Programming Coordinator for the United Way of Lamar County Sabrina Rosson.

Sitting next to Oaklee on the picnic tables outside the Trail de Paris at Love Civic Center, Sessums said she thought she’d work on her running through the barrels and posts at home, on a course set up for horse riding.

Approximately 150 of the 239 students who registered for the marathon came to the event to log their first mile, Rosson said, but they didn’t have to be at the Trail de Paris on Monday to get started. A parent, guardian or teacher must sign off on the students progress log, she said.

She added she was happy with the turnout at the event

“The best part was the excitement that the kiddos showed as they checked in and then the tired looks when they stopped by to pick up their running logs,” Rosson said. “One little boy said that was the longest he had ever ran.”

Last year’s event started pre-Covid and only a few students were able to finish, she said. Out of the 200 that showed up, only 17 went the full 25 miles by the end. This year’s event had the students start their run in stages, with the first set heading out at 5:30. Students also received a water bottle for joining the marathon, and then Pyro the Dragon and the Paris Junior College cheerleaders ran with the students for the first mile.

Shamar Burgess said he participated year before last, but skipped last year because of Covid.

“I like running,” he said.

This is also the first year his little sister, Shayla Burgess, was going to participate, and she said she planned on stretching first.

The end of the event will be from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 24, the finale.

“The kids must run their last 1.2 miles at the finale to officially complete the marathon and receive their medal,” Rosson said. “The finale will also be at the Trail de Paris.

“This event is designed to encourage students to run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles, over the course of eight weeks. The primary goal is to encourage children to be more physically active.”

For information, contact Rosson at srossonuwlc@gmail.com or 903-784-6642.

Rosson thanked this year’s sponsors, including Brookshire’s, J. Skinner, Print Works, Lamar County Delta Medical Society, Pickle Printing, Physical Therapy Clinic of Paris and the United Way, for helping cover the cost of the event.

Kim Cox is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6965 or at kim.cox@theparisnews.com.

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