More than 120 students from Monroe Elementary School will run the last 1.2 miles of their marathon Sunday morning at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
All of them were born after the Oklahoma City bombing, but they've learned why they're running.
“It's always so important for kids to learn a sense of community and being a part of something bigger than themselves, and that's really, really hard sometimes to get across to young children,” Monroe Principal Angee Allen said.
“This is what we do as Oklahomans ... to remember those people and honor those people that died.”
Participants in the Oklahoma City Memorial Kids Marathon run 25 of the 26.2 miles on their own before the Saturday event.
They run the last 1.2 miles on a special course after the adult racers head across the starting line at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. When the kids cross the finish line, they get a medal just like the adult runners do.
The Kids Marathon is open to students in sixth grade and younger.
At Monroe Elementary, students have been logging their miles around the school track during recess, said Jennifer Kremeier, a first-grade teacher who's coordinating the school's group. Four laps around the track is 1 mile. Students have been marking their progress with stickers.
About twice as many Monroe students are participating in the Kids Marathon this year compared to last year, Kremeier said.
The reason: a sponsorship from Kimray, an Oklahoma City company that manufactures oil and gas equipment.
The company paid the $10 entry fee for each Monroe student who wanted to run.
“We're in a very low socio-economic school,” Kremeier said. “Whenever you have sponsors like Kimray that can help our kids out in our community, it just makes things happen.”
The president of Kimray, Thomas Hill, also is a co-founder of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. He said connecting young people with the Oklahoma City National Memorial and its mission becomes more important as each year passes.
“We have to transition to teaching the lessons of peaceful resolution,” Hill said.
“We have to teach that to younger generations — younger generations that didn't experience what we did firsthand.”
Knocking out the $10 entry fees for students at Monroe Elementary is about more than making a donation, Hill said.
He wants to send a message to students that they can achieve their goals regardless of income, geography and circumstances.
“Their current circumstances and their current situation doesn't define them,” Hill said.
“Their response defines them. That's what Oklahoma City learned. The evil didn't define us. The response to that evil defined us. Teach these kids they can control their destiny by their actions. Who wouldn't want their kid to believe that?”