|Boy, 9, Stops for Penguins in Marathon|
|By CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27)||Mar 5, 2013, 10:12 AM|
Nikolas Toocheck, 9, had two goals for his recent trip to Antarctica-- run his second marathon as part of his quest to run a marathon on every continent and to meet a penguin. He accomplished both goals.
"It was epic," Nikolas' dad Daniel Toocheck, who ran the race with him, told ABCNews.com today. "It was fun. It was everything we hoped it would be and the most important part is he's safe, healthy and he's happy."
Race day was delayed from Feb. 25 to Feb. 27 because of fog that made it difficult for participants to land in Antarctica, but once the day came the temperature was in the mid-30s. Toocheck said that Nikolas actually got hot during the race and ran in shorts.
"We're both grateful. It's just truly an amazing experience," Toocheck said. "And he got to meet a penguin."
The fourth grader completed the race in about six hours and 20 minutes and took time during the race to enjoy the scenery and some new waddling friends Nikolas told ABCNews.com before the race he was "excited to meet."
Several people had told him that penguins were smelly, but when he finally got eye-level with a penguin, he delightedly told his dad, "It's not smelly down here at all. Maybe that's just a rumor the sea lions started."
"Some people don't want to stop. They want to run the race. But if you're going all the way down there, why just run by the penguins?" Daniel Toocheck said. "He was very happy to waddle around like the penguins and enjoy his time. When else are you going to get that chance?"
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 in February before heading to Antarctica.
Nikolas 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 hatched the idea to run a marathon on every continent to raise money for charity, and set out to accomplish the goal after the 72-pound, 4-foot-6-inch boy was cleared to participate by a team of doctors.
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 has not yet signed up for his next race, but his dad said they have their eye on the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset marathon in August. Wherever they go, Toocheck looks forward to being by his son's side as he pursues his dream.
"It's just one of those things where you wonder, how do you top that?" Toocheck said. "To actually be able to do it with your son, side-by-side, is just the most wonderful thing in the world. And he's doing it to help other children."