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It’s Missoula Marathon time, and while they might not be ready for a full 26.2 miles all at once, hundreds of kids came downtown ready to run on Saturday.

The distance was only a mile, even though the annual fun run is called the Missoula Kids Marathon. Race coordinator Tiffany Hobbs said starting in April, some of the participants who had signed up for the race had begun to log miles and other physical activity, building up to the first 25.2 miles.

“Today, they are running the last mile to complete the length of a marathon,” she said.

Hobbs said around 500 children took part in the Kids Marathon this year. She said while most of the runners are from Missoula and the surrounding area, they also had a large number of signups just before the race, especially with people from out of town.

“They might have a parent doing the full or half marathon, or just were in town and looking for something to do,” Hobbs said.

She led the kids in a series of stretches before the fun run, which began in front of the Boone and Crocket Club building and ended in Caras Park, which also hosted an all-day runner’s expo on Saturday.

Nate Auge spent the minutes leading up to the start of the race helping his sons Jake and Matt pin on their bibs and write their names on pieces of tape stuck to their chests.

“You two get to put on numbers before I do,” he said.

Auge will be running in the full marathon on Sunday. It’s the first of any type of organized distance race he’s taken part in.

“I thought, if I’m going to do it I should go big,” he said.

Jake, 8, said one day he also wants to run in the big race.

“It will be hard, but I’ll be ready,” he said.

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In addition to the run for kids, Saturday was also the first race of the marathon weekend, the Missoula 5K.

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Kate Beckman and her brother Joe had come quite a distance to be a part of the Kids Marathon. The Beckmans, from Omaha, Nebraska, were taking part in their fourth year of running in the race.

“I had it be my goal this year that I didn’t want to stop running for a break during it,” said Kate, 11.

Their family comes to Missoula for a few weeks every summer to visit relatives and stay at their cabin. Beckman said she was looking forward to hiking and swimming before they head home. While she’s not running in either the full or half marathon on Sunday, she wants to give it a try at some point.

“Maybe when I’m a little older I’ll train for it,” she said.

All the runners in the Kids Marathon received a shirt with artwork chosen through a competition. The winning artist was fourth-grader Chloe Long from Frenchtown Elementary. At the end of the race, participants received a medal, race bag and water bottle.

Just under seven minutes from the start, 11-year-old Payton Ater, a sixth-grader at Meadow Hill, finished first. Ater said the heat that had already started to creep in by race time didn’t bother him as much as he thought it might when he showed up that morning hoping to cross the finish line in front.

“I thought right from the start that I would be able to win. I was just able to keep running as fast as I could all the way through,” he said.

A few seconds behind Ater, Sage Reddish, 11, finished as the first girl, and second overall. This was her second Kids Marathon. Reddish, from Stevensville, said that although she was faster than last year, she wasn’t quite able to accomplish her original goal.

“I hoped to have a girl finish first, but he was really fast and there was still an improvement,” she said.

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