Brinkley Frankum always knew running long-distance road races looked like fun. The Gainesville Middle seventh grader has seen her mother, Sherri Frankum, run plenty of the half marathons and marathons before.
Frankum and her classmate Sara Hayes, both 13, learned about all the work that leads up to running a long distance race when they ran the 13.1-mile ING Georgia Half Marathon on March 29 in Atlanta. In the process, Frankum and Hayes both earned a proud distinction as the two youngest competitors in the field of 9,643 that completed the half marathon, which weaved through the city streets and some of the historic neighborhoods of Atlanta. Both of the girls, along with Sherri, all crossed the finish line at 2 hours, three minutes, 20 seconds, exceeding their original goal of 2:10.
“It was a lot of fun taking part in this race,” Brinkley said. “My favorite part of the race was when we finally crossed the finish line.”
Because of their age, Hayes said they would draw glances from the field of adults running, and were asked by runners afterward how old they are.
“Running a half marathon was a really good experience,” Hayes said. “It was a lot of hard work, but worth it.”
The only accommodation for these two 13 year olds to be able to run the road race was to have a waiver for adequate training signed, since the race has an age cutoff of 14 for half marathon participation. Their age made them unique to the race with only 32 finishers at the Georgia Half Marathon under the age of 16.
Through the process, these busy students learned that running a distance road race is much more demanding than just lacing up the shoes and showing up at the starting line. Brinkley and Hayes both started training for the race shortly after Christmas with runs geared toward building endurance worked in to their busy schedules with other sports and activities they compete in: Brinkley is a cheerleader and golfer at Gainesville Middle, and Sara participates in gymnastics and cheerleading.
“I knew they would be able to stick with the training,” Sherri Frankum said. “They are very goal-oriented girls.”
Brinkley’s mother helped devise a training schedule with her knowledge of the sport. Runs during the week were designed to go between 4-5 miles and done on their own time either outdoors or on the treadmill. Then on Sundays the trio would head out and do a long run, adding one mile each week leading up to the race. The longest run the group managed to put in before the race was 11 miles, before running the 13.1 distance.
“I liked training to run because I’m a really competitive person and like a lot of different sports,” Hayes said.
Now that they have the first half marathon under their belts, Brinkley is already thinking about running again, this time at the Disney World Half Marathon in January.