Hundreds run in Advocate races

“The kids race is the best entry into racing for the first-timers and not just for the kids but for the parents. When the kids start having fun running the whole family starts to do it.” DANNY BOURGEOIS, marketing director for the Louisiana Marathon

Roosevelt Thomas, 12, of Zachary, crossed the finish line at The Advocate Kids Marathon on Saturday after running 1.2 miles in 8 minutes, 32 seconds without breaking a sweat.

Waiting for him at the finish line was his mother, Vicki, who was still cooling down from her earlier 5K run, his brother Riffence, 14, who plays baseball, and his father, “Riff” Thomas, who runs for fun but not in competition because of football injuries to his knees.

“It was fun,” Roosevelt said as he looked for his family among the crowd of more than 300 kids and their parents. “It was far.”

“Way to go,” Vicki Thomas told her son as she gave him a high 10. “We’re proud of you,” the boy’s father added.

“This brings us together as a family,” Riff Thomas said. “It tightens the bonds between me and my sons.”

The several-block area south of the State Capitol along Spanish Town Road, called the “Family Fest” area, was filled with food booths, the Play Dirty Adventure Trail obstacle course, a variety of inflatables and bounce-houses, a face painting booth, coffee, juice, beer and ice cream vendors and a bandstand that featured talent from the Dunham School Jazz Band and the Baton Rouge Music Studios.

Family values were evident throughout the crowd as parents pinned numbered bibs on their impatient children who burned off energy waiting for the race to start by stretching, jogging in place or just bouncing up and down.

Whether the kids were running, crawling through an obstacle course tube and maneuvering over cargo net or climbing a climbing wall, they were being encouraged by the adults.

Before the race began, Jackson Bartholomew, 9, of Denham Springs, climbed the wall in very good form while his mother, Randi Bartholomew, and his grandfather Mike Amis watched and cheered.

Climbing up and down the wall “made me feel good about myself. I wasn’t afraid,” Jackson said.

As far as the race was concerned, “I’ve been training since before Christmas,” Jackson said. “I like to run, but I like climbing more.”

Mindy Traylor, of Baton Rouge, ran with her daughter Sadie, 5, who, as many children, was wearing a jacket and hat in the chilly morning air. They have been practicing for the race through a school program coordinated with The Advocate’s “run fun” insert published several months ago.

“We run together,” Mindy Traylor said. Sadie was too shy to talk.

Jack and Lori Vaughn, of Denham Springs, were there with sons Harley, 7, and Cody, 6. Lori, who ran with the boys, said she was planning to run the half marathon Sunday while Jack was planning to run the full marathon.

“My best (mile) time is 10:30,” said Cody. Harley said he can run the mile in “under 10 minutes.”

Jack Vaughn said the family runs together all the time and his wife and kids go with him when he takes part in road races and triathalons.

“This is our hobby. This is our fun,” Jack Vaughn said. “This keeps us together. The boys get all fired up on race day.”

Danny Bourgeois, marketing director for the Louisiana Marathon, said organizers were pleased with the turnout of more than 300 children. He added that more than 100 who planned to compete didn’t make it in time because of a traffic accident between Baton Rouge and Gonzales.

“The kids race is the best entry into racing for the first-timers and not just for the kids but for the parents,” Bourgeois said. “When the kids start having fun running the whole family starts to do it.”

“The family that runs together sweats and sticks together,” Bourgeois said. He estimated the attendance for the kids race was “more than double last year.”

At the end of the race, which involved a 1.2-mile run for kids ages 6-12, and a fun run/walk of a half-mile for kids 4-12, race officials and several Baton Rouge Police Department officers kept an eye on the area where runners finished the race.

Parent’s armband numbers had to match the kids’ bib numbers, said Gerard “Coach G.P.” Pearlberg, who also presented a Saturday afternoon seminar on family running.

“Missing a child is not good at any level so we made sure we had a barrier when the race is finished so every child is reunited with a parent, guardian, big brother or big sister,” Pearlberg said. “This race is thinking ahead so as the races grow over the years they have some safety measures already in place.”

“A healthy family, an active family, is a family that stays together,” Pearlberg said. “Kids become more well balanced. They learn at an early age about nutrition and an active lifestyle.”

“Running creates a strong nucleus for the family,” Pearlberg said. “It creates a unity that keeps kids away from some of the distractions and the dangers of drugs and alcohol.”