AUSTIN -- Ten-thousand Austin area elementary school students started a six month journey to complete a marathon Saturday morning.
It's called the Marathon Kids 26.2 mile Challenge and the children kicked it off together with a lap around Myers Stadium at the University of Texas.
"The kids get really excited and really encouraged and it's a way for all of us as a community to show the kids, you can do this," said Erica Gordon, National Director of Programs for Marathon Kids.
"I like it a lot because you get to run around and have fun," added 5th grader Hannah Butler.
About 750 community volunteers and UT athletes cheered the runners on while moms, dads and even grandparents ran by their side.
"You have to be a healthy example for your kids and if I have to be here and run around the track with them to show them that it's worth it, that's the way it's got to start," said Andres Salas who's children are participating in the program.
The concept of the non-profit organization is simple, as Salas explained. "Get healthy young and hopefully it will promote a healthy life for the rest of their lives."
And there's proof it works.
"It's definitely like a flash from the past," said Craig Lutz, looking at the children race around the track.
Lutz became a Marathon Kid in the second grade when the program was just a few years old.
"You're standing out here in front of all the UT athletes and it's just an awesome experience where you get really excited when you kind of see a life that would be really cool to be a part of," he said.
Fifteen years later, he is a part of that life. Lutz is a cross country runner for the UT track team.
"It got me really excited about running. Granted it was still years away from me actually starting to train for it but I just really enjoyed getting out there," added Lutz.
And that enthusiasm is contagious.
"I get excited about wanting to exercise from this," said Butler.
A passion organizers hope will stay with the group of Marathon Kids their entire lives.
A total of 96,000 Austin-area kids are participating in the program this year. To support the program, Marathon Kids is hosting Pow! A Super Soiree at The Belmont. Doors open at 6:30pm and general admission tickets are $50 dollars.