Fifteen weeks of training paid off Saturday as a few hundred 8-year-olds lined up to finish a marathon at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
They stretched their legs while organizers told them to run in a straight line to avoid getting tangled with other kids and reminded them to pace themselves.
But like the seven other heats of elementary school-aged kids that morning, they were inching closer to the blue starting tape, ready to burst onto the course.
At 80 schools across Orange County, students had been preparing by participating in running clubs like the one at Costa Mesa's Davis Magnet School.
Through Kids Run the OC, a program by the OC Marathon, they ran their own version of a marathon.
Ten-year-old Katie Eimers remembered showing up 15 weeks ago at 7:30 in the morning not sure what to expect.
But soon, she was excited about running.
"We did fun drills," she said, exercises like a Simon Says run around the yard when kids had to imitate different animals or stop for jumping jacks.
"It's about begin active," said Katie's dad, Matt Eimers, who helped coach Davis' team. "It doesn't always have to be about running on a track."
After 15 weeks, Katie and her classmates' training added up to the equivalent of 25.2 miles each. They just needed to tack one more mile Saturday to claim a medal for the equivalent of running a marathon.
Kids Run the OC said 5,500 students signed up for the program this year, 60 of those from Davis.
Later this month, the Davis students who crossed the finish line will collect their marathon medals in a ceremony at school.
But Sunday, the adults, including Matt Eimers, take over the starting line.
Eimers said he had some extra motivation to train himself while he was helping his daughter and her classmates. He'll be running his first marathon Sunday.
"It's on my bucket list to do a marathon," he said.