Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Healthy Habits Are Learned a Mile at a Time

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Healthy Habits Are Learned a Mile at a Time

Article excerpt

The first person to cross the finish line the weekend of the Pittsburgh Marathon this year will not be the race's winner.

On Saturday, the day before the marathon, close to 2,000 children will run the last mile of the course as part of the fourth annual Pittsburgh Kids Marathon.

The one-mile fun run has evolved into an integral part of marathon weekend. This year, it will have some added significance as the capstone on the second Kids of Steel Program.

The Kids of Steel is an 18-week program organized by the marathon to get children invested in running. The goal is for participants, who range from kindergarten to sixth grade, to run 26.2 miles in an 18-week period. They will run 25.2 miles leading up to marathon weekend and then run the final mile Saturday in the Kids Marathon.

"It's great to instill a love of exercise at this age," program director Michele Nichols said. "Because you can see, as adults, it can help as you get older. By starting exercise at a young age, you'll hopefully carry that throughout your adulthood."

The program started as a pilot program with the Kids Marathon three years ago with two schools participating. It grew to 10 schools last year, and this year 29 schools are signed up. Nichols said they even had to turn down a few schools and start a waiting list for next year.

Each school handles the program differently. Some run during gym class, others before or after school. At Minadeo Elementary School in Greenfield, grandmother Jane Louik runs with the children Saturday mornings.

Teachers and marathoners Theresa Vescovi and Tammy Williams coordinate the program at George Washington Elementary School in Bethel Park. The two first became interested after they ran the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009.

"We're picking up our bags at the expo and they had the Kids Marathon going on," Vescovi said. "We watched it and it was amazing. …

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