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Race series for kids starts on Sunday in Parkersburg

Reed Byers

PARKERSBURG — A local man who took up running for exercise is looking to spread his enthusiasm for the activity to area youth through the Healthy Kids Running Series.

The first of five races is planned for Sunday afternoon at City Park.

“It’s not supposed to be super-competitive,” said Reed Byers, a Belpre resident and community coordinator for the series. “It’s meant to be positive and encouraging.”

Byers said he started running about 18 months ago “in a quest to lose weight.” He’s shed more than 50 pounds so far and worked his way up from 20 to 30 miles a week to 60.

“I just fell in love with it,” he said.

Byers even started working with a coach in an effort to qualify for the Boston Marathon but sustained an injury in February.

It was difficult finding local races last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Byers said, noting he traveled five hours to participate in his first 5K in Virginia in October. He did several more races in the latter part of 2020.

After learning about the Healthy Kids Running Series on social media, he applied and was accepted as a local coordinator for the group’s first event in West Virginia.

The Thornton, Pa.-based nonprofit was founded in 2009 to combat rising rates of childhood obesity in America, according to its website, healthykidsrunningseries.org. It works with local coordinators to establish races for children ages 2-14 to lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle.

Byers said he has received great support from local businesses.

The races are broken down by age group, with a 50-yard dash for 2- and 3-year-olds and a 75-yard dash for 4- and 5-year-olds. Kindergarteners and first-graders will compete in a quarter-mile race, with second- and third-graders going half a mile. Fourth- and fifth-graders will do a mile, as will sixth- through eighth-graders.

There’s also an untimed 75-yard dash for any youth age 2-14 with a disability that requires special accommodations.

Kids receive points based on their finishes, with the top boy and girl in each age group receiving a trophy at the end of the series. Children who participate in all five races will get a T-shirt and medal.

Cost is $40 for all five races, and registration can be completed online at runsignup.com/Race/WV/Parkersburg/HKRSParkersburgWV. Kids can also register in person on the day of the events, with a charge of $10 for single races.

Byers said parents and children must wear masks and maintain social distance when possible, though children do not have to wear masks while running.

“We’re running in heats to keep them in small groups,” he said.

Sunday’s event begins at 3 p.m. with the first heat at 3:14. The finish line for all races is in the grassy area between the playground, band shell and horseshoe pit.

Subsequent races will be at the same time and location. A second series is planned for the fall.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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