Well Being

9-Year-Old Set To Run Antarctica Marathon For Charity: Awesome or Awful?

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Nikolas Toocheck is nine years old. And he's going to a run a marathon—in Antarctica. If you, too, did a double take when you read that information, keep reading.

Nikolas is training to run the White Continent Marathon this month in Antarctica. He plans to run in order to raise money for a charity his grandfather started, Operation Warm. Operation Warm provides coats to needy children throughout the US.  Nik's platform is “Running The World For Children,” as the stated goal on his website is run a marathon on each of the seven continents and raise $1 million for the charity.

He says:

I’ve learned how important it is to help other people who need it and I think that Operation Warm is great because every kid should be able to have their very own warm coat. I get to do something I love so much and help children in need at the same time. It’s so awesome! Is there anything better?

In my mind, running a marathon in Antarctica would be borderline extreme even for an adult, experienced runner. And a nine-year-old running a marathon would strike me as extreme even if it were not in Antarctica. But the combination of those two factors just seems so gimmicky, so clearly publicity-driven and juuuuuuust the tiniest bit exploitative, that I can't quite believe it.

Nik ran a marathon last year in Lewes, Delaware and is a decorated track and field athlete in his age group. To all appearances, it sounds like he truly loves running and wants to help out with his grandfather's charity. But let's not forget that this little boy from West Chester, Pa. is only in the fourth grade, still a minor, still a child.

I don't know much about running marathons, but it seems like the strain that the training and running would be a lot for a nine year old. His website says:

Nikolas’s health and safety are the absolute top priorities. No one else is going to care more about his health than his parents. In order to determine whether this was something that is a healthy and safe choice for Nikolas, his parents have conducted a considerable amount of research and have taken him for extensive medical tests and comprehensive evaluations and consults with medical experts, including Pediatric Cardiology and Sports Medicine Specialists. The medical doctors who evaluated and examined Nikolas concluded that they have no problem with him participating in long distance running based on Nikolas’s training regimen. Nikolas also continues to be monitored by his parents and medical experts.

Hmm, ok. I certainly believe that he's monitored and that his parents are watching out for him (he trains with his dad and his dad runs the marathons with him), but something still strikes me as problematic. There's lot of mentions of the fact that he is set to be the youngest person to run a marathon in Antarctica (and the youngest person to run one on each of the seven continents); is there any reason why he has to accomplish that feat when he's less than a decade old? If he's only run one other marathon, I just wonder why the push towards having his second be this one in Antarctica. Add in the fact that the particular marathon he's running is crazy expensive: $5,085 just to enter (not including the flight to Punta Arenas, Chile, and then another flight to Antarctica, which could total an additional $6,000).

While it's cool to see a little boy pursuing his dreams, I can't help thinking that it wouldn't hurt if he waited another few years to start running marathons for charity, especially an extreme one like the one he is set to run this month in Antarctica. When interviewed with his son, Nik's dad said, “People have said ‘Well, maybe that's not such a good idea.' But when we ask them why, they cant seem to tell us why. Maybe they just think, ‘Well,  because we can't do it.'”

What do you think? Is this an inspirational story or is something weird going on here? Do you think people have negative opinions on Nik's running because it's something most people can't (or don't want to) do?

Photo: Nik Runs The World