KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Covenant Health held a kids run at Zoo Knoxville Saturday to kick off their marathon challenge.

The one-mile run marked the start of the 18th Annual Covenant Kids Run. Kids that participate will complete the exercise equivalent of a marathon over the course of the next two months. After the zoo race, they were sent home with an exercise log to track their progress.

The kids will run their final mile on April 1 during Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon Weekend. Race Director Jason Altman said the goal of the challenge is to encourage healthy habits in kids and their families.

“We want to do more than just putting on a singular event because that’s just one day. We want to try to instill healthy habits, a lifetime of running and exercise and being physically fit,” Altman said.

Covenant Health is partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley as their charity partner.

“They have a lot of the children from their facilities coming to participate not just today, but after school, they’re going to be logging their miles over the next two months. Then they’re going to bus them down to the Covenant Kids Run in April,” Altman said.

Tara Crowe is a mother of two and said the Boys and Girls Clubs provide fun activities for her kids and help her find childcare.

“Especially as a single mom working a full-time job, there’s not many people to watch them after school just for a few hours until I get off.” 

The kids are also encouraged to participate through their schools. The Fittest School Challenge is sponsored by Dollywood, and the school with the highest percentage of participation in the kids run will win prize money.

Registration for the kids run and the marathon is still open and volunteers are needed.