By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Fifteen-year-old Kate Kimber displayed a half-marathon medal in her bedroom.
It symbolized not just reaching the end of a 13.1-mile run, but also 14 weeks of bitter cold Saturday mornings, hours of dedication and several laughs with the Bridge the Gap to Health community.
Kimber was one of only a few youths to cross the half-marathon finish line during last year's Bridge the Gap race. She became involved in the training program after watching her mother, Carrie, maintain a passion for fitness and running. Kate Kimber and fourth-grader Emily Asmann will be youth leaders for this year's event, with hopes of encouraging more young people to take part in the fitness initiative.
"When I started, I didn't even like running," Kate said. "I saw (Mom) doing it, and she liked it, and then I tried it with my friends."
The Bridge the Gap event will be May 18 at Clat Adams Park. The event features 5K, 10K and half-marathon certified courses for the competitive runner, a 5K leisure walk, timed walking 10K and half-marathon events and a 10K Indo-Row challenge.
Quincy Medical Group is sponsoring a kickoff event at 9 a.m. Saturday in the worship center at the Kroc Center for people who want to begin training for the 5K, 10K or half-marathon portion of the event. In mileage, the distances are 3.1, 6.2 and 13.1 miles, respectively.
Participants will meet the NuFIT trainers and hear an inspirational speech from former Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Carrie Kimber is race director. She said children will often emulate parents who pursue healthy lifestyles, and she has seen examples of families setting fitness goals and working together to reach them in preparation for Bridge the Gap.
"Getting kids to feel strong in our community is not so much about the number on the scale, it's about what you can do," Kimber said.
Anthony Biggs, medical director of QMG Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, monitors participants for safety during the training program. He said he has seen an array of participants succeed the past five years.
"The feeling with the Saturday walks (and runs) is almost that of a community-wide gathering," Biggs said. "We all have different levels of runners and walkers out there. Some move very quickly and some move not so quickly.
"Each Saturday training is like a scrimmage before the big game. It's almost like a sports season that we're all looking forward to. It's brings new challenges and new opportunities to meet people."
As Kate and her two friends completed training routes last year, they enjoyed eating Skittles from their pockets, looking at animals, and rewarding themselves with macaroni and cheese afterward. They kept the runs light-hearted, but they still sought success and built relationships with adults in the program.
"It's amazing that there's really so many adults in the community that really love seeing young people involved in this," Kimber said.
"I love the people out there," Kate said. "They're my friends. Everyone's really nice. Everyone's encouraging, and they cheer for each other."
Kate's biggest champion was her mother.
"I knew (Kate) was going to have this great accomplishment that ... I didn't have until I was in my mid-30s," she said.
Carrie Kimber said she admired her daughter's dedication to the training. Kate and her friends trained outside of the Saturday sessions several days a week. Initially, Kate doubted she would be able to complete the half-marathon. A year later, she's proud she completed the program and looks forward to coaching other youth.
"Never put a cap on what you think you can do," Carrie Kimber said. "Just go out there are work and be prepared to amaze yourself."