Ojo Amarillo — About 60 students on Wednesday afternoon completed a set of jumping jacks near the playground at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School.

After a warm up that included lunges and stretching, they ran out of the school's east gate, turned north and weaved through the dirt hills near the school.

The students, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade, are participating in the kids' marathon, which is part of the events surrounding this weekend's Shiprock Marathon.

The kids' marathon is open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade who run 25 miles or more between January and April. To run a total of 26.2 miles — the length of a marathon — the kids will run the final 1.2 miles on Saturday, the day of the Shiprock Marathon.

Anayah Dickson, left, and Kaitlyn Pinto, center, warm up on Wednesday  before the start of a running session at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School.
Anayah Dickson, left, and Kaitlyn Pinto, center, warm up on Wednesday before the start of a running session at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

Third-grade teacher Amy Taylor coordinated the effort after learning about the kids' marathon from the Four Directions Sports League. Taylor took attendance before each running session, which took place after school, and kept a record of each student's progress.

"I think they learned a lot about being active," Taylor said.

Jade Henry, a fifth grader, was among those who ran on Wednesday.

"It gives me exercise because it's fun," Henry said. "Usually, my goal is trying to pass this person or that person."

Sixth-grader Xsavior Dee enjoys running because it is "fun" and "challenging," but the answer for first-grader Angelina Decker was simple.

"I like running," she said.

Henry, Dee and Decker plan to complete their last miles at the marathon on Saturday.

JoAnn Platero, a first-grade teacher, watched the students as they made their way through the 2-mile course on Wednesday.

"It motivates me to get moving. I want to prove to myself that I can do it," she said about running, adding that she plans to run the half-marathon on Saturday.

More than 200 kids will participate in the kids' marathon. It provides the opportunity for them to learn about commitment and training, Shiprock Marathon race director Tom Riggenbach said.

Ojo Amarillo Elementary School students complete a run on Wednesday during their running session at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School.
Ojo Amarillo Elementary School students complete a run on Wednesday during their running session at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

The kids' marathon will be at Diné College's south campus. It starts at 8 a.m. on Saturday, which is the same time the non-competitive 5K run and walk begins.

Both the marathon and five-person team relay starts at 7 a.m. near the Arizona-New Mexico state border on Indian Service Route 13. It continues onto U.S. Highway 491 and ends at Diné College's south campus.

As of Monday, there were 243 runners registered for the marathon from the U.S. and countries including Canada, Costa Rica, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

"We'll have a new winner for the first time in five years," Riggenbach said, explaining that five-time marathon winner Shaun Martin will not compete this year.

Instead, Martin is coaching 14 cross-country runners from Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz., where he is the athletic director, Riggenbach said.

In addition to that, Martin will be cheering on his wife, who is running the half-marathon, and their son, who is participating in the kids' marathon.

The half-marathon starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday near the volcanic wall of the Shiprock pinnacle on Indian Service Route 13 and follows the same course as the marathon to Diné College's south campus.

So far, 520 runners have registered for the half-marathon, Riggenbach said.

New to the Shiprock Marathon is the "Shiprock Double," which combines the 10K trail run behind Diné College on Friday and the half-marathon on Saturday.

Also on Friday is a health and wellness expo at Diné College's south campus, where there will be a variety of booths, speakers and activities.

Indian Service Route 13 will be closed from 6 a.m. to noon on Saturday from the New Mexico-Arizona state border to U.S. Highway 491.

The southbound lane of U.S. Highway 491 will be reduced to one lane and closed from 7 a.m. to noon.

Riggenbach estimates there will be about 1,500 runners in the marathon and half-marathon routes.

"Drive with caution, but don't be afraid to wave and honk," Riggenbach said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.