For Marco McMillan, the fun of running competitions like Saturday’s Micro-Marathon is clear.
“I like beating everybody!” said Marco, a kindergartner from Glen Cove, before quickly acknowledging that, in his race, he finished in fourth place.
That result at East Meadow’s Eisenhower Park was enough to earn Marco a participation medal, as it was for dozens of other tots who ran, toddled, or were carried in a series of not-quite-competitive races for runners ages 1 to 11. The kids’ runs as well as a one-mile and 5k run Saturday precede Sunday’s main event, the Long Island Marathon.
Events like the Micro-Marathon give kids a low-stakes opportunity to try out competitive athletics and reap the developmental benefits that sports offer, Marco’s father said after watching his son run.
“It just builds so much character,” said Tomas McMillan, 51, who teaches algebra in Washington Heights in Manhattan and is running Sunday in the half-marathon.
Marco was not the only micro-marathoner taking after his parents.
“She wanted to do it because Mommy was doing it,” said Chris Thomas, 37, of Franklin Square after watching his 4-year-old daughter Avery run.
Thomas’ wife had run in the 5k race earlier Saturday morning, he said, while his daughter was eagerly anticipating her own event.
“She’s been talking about it for months,” he said.
Close to 5,000 people have signed up for the weekend’s races, not including the kids’ run, according to race director Jason Lipset, who said the marathon, half-marathon, 10k, 5k and one-mile run attract participants from dozens of states and international runners as well.
Participants in Sunday’s big events expressed jittery excitement Saturday after picking up their race bibs at a sports expo near the starting line.
“I just want to finish,” said Samuel Cabuenas of Floral Park, who is tackling his first full-length marathon.
Cabuenas, 45, said he’s been training for about three months — whenever he could find the time between raising his five children and working full time as a physical therapist.
“It’s hard,” he said, but competing in the event is important to him.
“I need to keep myself physically healthy and fit,” he said. “Not just for my own well-being, but for my children, too.”
For half-marathoner Kristine McConnell, part of the appeal is getting to see her lifelong stomping grounds on foot for a change.
“It’s nice to run in neighborhoods that you’ve grown up in,” said McConnell, 37, who grew up in Baldwin and lives in East Rockaway.
“You kind of get to take in more of it,” she said.