For 8-year-old Will Shinew, running the “Big Block” is no problem.
Will’s mother, Kim Shinew, is a runner, and she has a one-mile route she’s measured through her Champaign neighborhood. They call their route the Big Block.
Kim and daughter Hannah, 11, ran in the Illinois Marathon event last year, with Kim doing the half-marathon and Hannah doing the 5K.
“We both had so much fun, we wanted to do it again,” Kim said.
Will wasn’t quite up for the 5K. But Kim had seen the fun run for kids at last year’s event and thought the shorter race was something Will could do.
So she took Will out to run the Big Block. He plays basketball, soccer and baseball, and he had no trouble running a mile. He’ll have no trouble with the Busey Illinois Youth Run either, which is 1K, or six-tenths of a mile.
Organizers are hoping for 1,000 children in the youth run, said Cheryle Turner, creative director at Busey Bank, sponsor of the youth run. Turner is helping coordinate the event.
Last year’s youth run at 579 kids, and there are already 434 pre-registered for this year’s run, as of Monday.
“A lot of parents wait until the day of (the race) to see what the weather is like,” Turner said, adding that more than 200 children registered the day of the event last year.
Kids start in Memorial Stadium, run out the north end to Kirby Avenue, come back around to the north and finish on the 50-yard-line.
“It’s really fun to watch them cross the finish line, because you would have thought they ran an entire marathon,” Turner said. “Parents are on the field and they take pictures of them. It’s a way for the whole family to get involved with the marathon.”
Jen Cochrane signed up her kids for the youth run, and they’re excited about finishing on the football field. Nine-year-old Jacob won’t be able to do it now, because of an out-of-town baseball game. But 6-year-old Macy and 8-year-old Sydney are planning to run.
“I thought that it would be a good experience for them socially, and just to be a part of it,” Cochrane said.
“They talk about it in the car, about when they get to run their marathon and get their medals,” she continued.
They’ve been practicing by running around the block occasionally.
“Training isn’t necessary for them. They can outrun me, I’m sure,” Cochrane said.
“It’s not a competitive thing,” she added. “This is going to be fun, seeing their friends.”
Eight-year-old KJ Munroe and 6-year-old brother Jake saw their grandmother walk the half-marathon last year.
“They thought the whole atmosphere of racing was fun,” said their mother, Anne Munroe.
So when their PE teacher at South Side Elementary School handed out fliers advertising the youth run, they asked if they could run it.
“I talked it up,” said Cindy Parnell, South Side’s PE teacher. “We made an extra push here at South Side to get them all involved.
“It’s a lifelong sport. You can always run or walk. It doesn’t matter how old you are,” continued Parnell, who is a walker herself. “I like to do things that are lifelong sports, lifelong healthy choices.”
Anne Munroe agreed, saying if children can get started running when they are young, they might continue with it into adulthood.
Kim and Will Shinew run the Big Block once a week. Will has been timing himself, which has added a competitive element to his training run, Kim said. He wanted to run under 10-minute miles, and he’s been running between 9 and 10 minutes per mile.
“I’m not really a distance runner. I’m more of a fast sprinter,” Will said.
Immediately after finishing a short run with his mom last week, he said, “I like to run, but I like to run more with a ball.”
Then he turned to his mom and asked, Can I go play basketball now?
The Busey Illinois Youth Run will be run at 2:30 p.m. on race day, May 1. It is open to children ages 3 to 10.
Children will run in waves according to three age groups: 6 and under, 7 and 8, and 9 and 10. Parents can run along with their children.
For the $10 entry fee, children get a T-shirt, a string bag and a medal.
This year, $1 of the $10 entry fee will go to the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation.
Photo: Kim and Will Shinew run in their neighborhood.