12-year-old runner competes in Honolulu Marathon

Kamm Kojima, Staff Writer

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Craig Wagnild
Zachary Wagnild running for cross country.

Weighing in at 78 pounds and standing at four and a half feet tall, seventh grader Zachary Wagnild is your average middle schooler. He plays video games, watches Youtube and enjoys memes. However, unlike most 12 year olds, he is registered to compete in the Honolulu Marathon this year, running 26.2 miles.

Zachary is one of more than 10 people age 12 registered for the Dec. 8th race, and more than 40 runners are age 12 or younger, officials said. More than 33,500 runners ran the Honolulu Marathon last year, according to race statistics posted online. The route starts from Ala Moana Beach Park and ends in Waikiki. The race association does not track times for runners under age 15. Last year, the fastest runner for ages 15-19 had a finishing time of two hours and 36 minutes. Zachary aims to cross the finish line in six and a half hours.  

“I think that this will help show others that I’m not weak,” Zachary said.

Zachary trains with his entire family. His mom and dad are both finishers of many marathons, and his brother, 5k school record holder and marathon runner, Parker Wagnild, encourages and assists Zachary in this task.

“All, the things I learn, I just try and pass on,” said Parker Wagnild.

Some running experts and doctors said young runners should be cautious when training for a marathon, according to an article on Activekids.com. The Honolulu Marathon requires runners to be at least seven years old in order to run. The Marine Corps Marathon age requirement is 12 years old, and the Boston Marathon requires runners to be 18 years old. 

According to the article, there are several considerations when kids run a marathon, including overuse injuries, psychological stress, nutrition concerns and heat stress. 

On the other hand, Mid Pacific’s cross country and track and field head coach, Rick Hendrix, is fine with his young athletes running the marathon. 

“As long as no one is putting pressure on him to do it,” said Hendrix.

There will be no prize for ages 7-14, race officials said. However, the marathon association recommends that young runners’ parents accompany their athlete and wishes Zachary the best of luck. 

Running with Zachary was his mother, Debbie Wagnild, who has run about six marathons, and father, Craig Wagnild, who has run about 20 marathons. 

Preparing for the marathon, Zach and his family woke up before the sun rose, starting their long runs, which started at four miles and every week a mile or two was added. 

Getting pumped for his race, Zachary listened to music as he laced his shoes. Running around the island, he and his family dodged tourists as they ran alongside the sunrise.

“Having that time together, but also this challenge, and working through this challenge together, those are some of the greatest lessons you can have, and we can do it as a family,” said Craig Wagnild. 

His recovery method includes three simple techniques for success: Coke, iHop and rest. 

“It’s been painful but once you finish it, you get it done,” Zachary said.

On the night before the race, the family plans were to eat lots of carbohydrates, drink water, and get lots of rest. Before the sun rose, the Wagnild family left the hotel, wearing matching “Zach Pack” shirts. Running together early in the morning before every marathon, this family is ready for the race.

During the race, Hendrix said he hopes that Zach remembers to have fun. 

In a pre-race interview, Craig Wagnild described Zachary’s race plan: he will sprint with all his might for three minutes. After three minutes, he will breathe and cool down during a one minute resting period, drinking water and eating energy gels in between. This cycle repeats until all 26.2 miles are accomplished.

“We are all right behind, to give him confidence and we support him,” said Hendrix.

Running with the confidence and love from his coaches, Zachary said he looks up to the fastest marathon runner in the world, Eliud Kipchoge, who broke the world record in 2018 with a marathon time of 2:01:39

“I kind of look up to him because he ran the fastest marathon,” Zachary said. “That is what inspires me to try harder.”