|9-Year-Old on Epic Marathon Quest|
|By CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27)||Feb 19, 2013, 3:50 PM|
While some kids will spend this weekend playing video games or at the mall, 9-year-old Nikolas Toocheck will be on his way to Antarctica to run his second marathon as part of his quest to run a marathon on every continent.
"Nikolas is a 9-year-old boy who loves to run. He sort of came out running," his mother Tara Toocheck told ABCNews.com with a laugh.
"He's always on the move," she said. "He's a bright, happy, adventurous, fun kid who decided at around age 6 to run some races and since then he has run quite a few with his dad."
Nikolas' father Daniel Toocheck, an optometrist who is also in the Air Force Reserve, is a seasoned runner who has completed about a dozen marathons. Nikolas started running when his dad was training for the Air Force's fitness test.
"I just think running is so fun and one of the things I like about it is running with my dad," Nikolas told ABCNews.com.
The fourth grader completed his first marathon on Dec. 1 in Delaware and was hooked.
"Since I love running so much, it was just more fun because it was a longer distance and the longer the distance, the better I do," he said.
He and his dad began discussing all of the different kinds of marathons that take place in different climates and Nikolas' mom said he thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could run a marathon on every continent?"
Once Nikolas was determined to do that, the family set to work researching whether there are even marathons on every continent and if it would be safe for the 72-pound, 4-foot-6-inch boy to participate.
Nikolas went to see numerous doctors including pediatric cardiologists and sports medicine specialists. He did EKGs and echocardiograms to make sure he didn't have any undetected heart conditions. His training and recovery regimens were meticulously planned to not over-strain his body.
"Everything has been addressed from burnout issues to what he's wearing on his feet to the food he eats," Tara Toocheck said. "Nobody is going to care more about our kid than we are."
Once Nikolas got the green light from all the doctors, specialists and mom, the search for races began. He found out that one Antarctica marathon had a several year waiting list, but when the race director of the new White Continent Marathon heard about Nikolas, he invited him to be a participant in this year's inaugural race. Nikolas' dad will be running with him.
Nikolas and his father will leave their West Chester, Pa., home on Friday for Chile and will travel to Antarctica on Monday for the race. The race location is over 2,000 miles from the South Pole and it's summer in Antarctica so the temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30s, warmer than Pennsylvania right now.
"I've never been there," Nikolas said enthusiastically. "I'm excited to meet a penguin."
Despite his outsized ambition, Nikolas still delights with his boyish ways. Toocheck said that when Nikolas was interviewed by ABC News' Philadelphia affiliate WPVI, he was impressed with the reporter's microphone and made his own when he got home. He labeled it with his own news network, Channel 2 Lightning News. Toocheck said that as he spoke to ABCNews.com by phone, he sat on the couch speaking into his own microphone.
Nikolas runs his races to raise money for Operation Warm, a charity founded 15 years ago by his grandfather, which provides coats for children in need. He has a website chronicling his journey and fundraising.
Nikolas runs at most five days a week, three to five miles a day. He and his dad come up with fun running trails around their West Chester home that they name, like the "donut run" that includes a stop at a farm that makes homemade cider donuts.
"The point is the kid is having fun and he wants to do it," Tara Toocheck said. "He's happy as can be. He's having fun and he's running most every step with his dad."
Young Marathoner, 9, Takes on Antarctica
Toocheck makes Nikolas' meals extra healthy with "secret ingredients" mixed into his foods like protein grains and pureed vegetables.
Nikolas finished his first marathon in just under six hours, walking a little bit along the way.
"The whole idea of this is to complete them, not to compete in them," his mom said. "He's competing in them to raise money for a cause."
The super-athletic 9-year-old is always on the go and cheered on by sister Thea, 14, who their mom says is as passionate about writing as Nikolas is about running. She's just published her second book, "Night Crawlers," available on Amazon.
When asked what his favorite sport is, Nikolas laughed and said, "That's really hard."
"I think baseball, hockey, football and running are all tied," he said.
He's "not exactly sure" what he wants to be when he grows up, but would like to play sports. He says the Olympics are not out of the question.