She’s 12. She runs an under-3-hour marathon. And she’s prepping for the 2028 Olympics

 A girl in a cap and a blue long-sleeved shirt with yellow design stands in the middle of a tree-lined street
Evan Kim, 12, ran a 2:58 in the Ventura Marathon recently, making her the fastest female runner in the under-19 age group and the second fastest overall.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Evan Kim is not sure what she wants to do when she grows up. She might want to be an elementary school teacher. Or perhaps an Olympic long-distance runner.

She’s working on the running thing.

The 5-foot-tall sixth-grader placed second among all girls and women at the Ventura Marathon in February when she ran the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours 58 minutes, averaging less than 7 minutes per mile. Her goal this year is to run the fastest recorded marathon for a 12-year-old of either gender — she’s only four minutes away. Her trainer (also known as her dad, who goes by MK) says the equation is simple: Just follow the workout plan and the record will be hers.

Evan was in some ways destined for a life of long-distance exercise. Born into a family of athletes in 2012, she was named after Cadel Evans, the cyclist who won the Tour de France the year prior. Her father MK, 49, was a pole vaulter at Duke University and now trains runners. He’s run a 2-hour, 51-minute marathon himself, but his daughter will probably pass him this year when she tries for a 2:48 time at the California International Marathon in December. Her older brother Cole and sister Haven also run marathons.


To be a 12-year-old marathoner, you need a level of grit that many 12-year-olds lack.

Evan Kim, 12, front, runs with family members and a running group to train for marathons.
Evan Kim, 12, front, runs with family members and a running group to train for marathons on March 10, 2024 in Irvine, California.She ran a 2:58 in the Ventura marathon recently, making her the fastest girl or woman age 1-19 and the second fastest overall.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

For example: When Evan Kim was running the Ventura Marathon and trying to hit her goal of 2:58, she developed a foot cramp around Mile 20 that lasted a few miles. She wanted to give up. She wanted to stop running. But she didn’t.

“Suck it up,” she told herself over and over, repeating the mantra to help her complete the marathon and beat all other under-20-year-old female runners by a full hour.

Evan’s goal is to qualify for the 2028 Olympics. To qualify for the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials in the women’s marathon, she’d have to run a 2:37 marathon, and that’s a bridge too far, even for someone whose record is as astonishing as Evan’s. Kenyan runner Peres Jepchirchir took home gold in the women’s marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a time of 2:27:20.

How ridiculous are Evan’s times? Consider this: Only 21% of women finish the marathon in under four hours. Just 1% of women finish in under three. The fastest marathon ever run by a 12-year-old of either gender, according to the Assn. of Road Racing Statisticians, was a 2:54 run by German runner Manuela Zipse in a 1986 race.

What separates Evan from her siblings, MK says, is that Evan started at an earlier age. She is not particularly physically gifted. She doesn’t have more lung capacity than other kids. She just has a reservoir of strength built from years of training seven days a week. When MK’s kids were young, they would all go for walks in the morning and the walks eventually became runs. Cole was 11 at the time. Evan was 6. It started with a mile, then two and kept gradually building until Evan asked for what any 10-year-old might ask their father for: permission to run in a marathon.


OK, maybe not just any 10-year-old.

“I wanted to run because my brother was running,” Evan explained. “It’s fun to compete, and I wanted to race like Cole did.”

Evan is competitive with Cole, who beat her by a minute in the Ventura Marathon. “I’m a little bit jealous,” she acknowledged, but said that she expects to “hopefully” beat him soon.

Evan ran her first marathon at a glacial 3:50 pace — glacial for 12-year-old Evan, that is.

Evan won’t be running in the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday, though her father and sister will, because she’s still recovering from the Ventura Marathon. She’ll eventually start building up her base again before getting in shape for the California International Marathon in December, where she hopes to break the record for 12-year-olds.

MK is fighting for his daughter to break a barrier in a different, more famous race than the L.A. Marathon. He wants the Boston Marathon to allow his daughter to race in April, even though the minimum age is 18.

So far he has received no responses to his entreaties to have his daughter join what he calls the greatest race on Earth.


“We feel discriminated against since Evan has proven to be more than capable of safely competing in the event by completing four marathons and Boston-qualifying in three of them,” MK said. To qualify for the 2025 Boston event, an 18-year-old woman would need a marathon finish time of 3:30 between September 2023 and September 2024.

MK said that the rule barring younger runners is similar to what women faced before the Boston Marathon went coed in 1972.

The Boston Athletic Assn. did not explain why it has its age requirements.

“Athletes must be 18 years of age on race day to enter the Boston Marathon. This age requirement falls in line with age requirements across all B.A.A. mass-participatory races, where athletes must be 14 years old to run the Boston Half Marathon; 12 for the Boston 10K, and 10 for the Boston 5K,” spokesman Chris Lotsbom said in an email.

Pediatricians say there is not enough information to say definitively whether marathons are safe for kids whose bodies are still growing. There are two major concerns for child marathoners. First, is it physically safe for kids to run marathons? Second, can children mentally handle the physical strain of the race?

A study by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine of the Twin Cities Marathon between 1982 and 2007 found that of 310 minors between ages 7 and 17 who finished the race, only four had “medical encounters,” a lower rate than adult finishers. None of the injuries were serious. MK says that Evan has never had any injury.

Dr. Brian Krabak, a sports medicine physician, said that the risks to a child running marathons depend on many factors, but that it can be OK as long as the child is closely monitored and the running lengths are gradually increased.


One other important factor, he said, is that “it’s the child who is motivated to do this and not just the adults around them. That’s a key component overall.”

Although Evan’s marathon finishes have so far flown under the radar, other instances of children running marathons have gone viral and led to online debate about whether kids should be participating and whether they understand what they are doing.

In 2022, 6-year-old Rainier Crawford finished the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. But when his parents posted a documentary about his run on YouTube, his family became the target of intense scrutiny.

Olympic marathoner Kara Goucher chimed in on the issue on X, formerly Twitter, saying, “A six year old does not understand what embracing misery is. A six year [old] who is ‘struggling physically’ does not realize they have the right to stop and should.”

Evan is undaunted.

As the Kim family took a casual seven-mile run Sunday on trails and bike lines in Irvine, cruising along at a relaxed 9 minutes per mile, people recognized the running family and waved as they passed. MK, a single father, has been operating a daily vlog documenting the family’s running for more than a year.

Evan is candid about her competitiveness and the fact that she did not always like running. The sport, however, has taught her that just because something is difficult does not mean it is bad. Just like running, telling the truth can be hard, doing all her homework can be hard, but she still does those things.


“During the race it feels really bad,” she said, “but after you finish it and you cheer everybody else on and meet each other at the end it feels really nice.”