By John Morton
It was just an ordinary Tuesday evening on Siesta Beach in 2009 when Kristy Ochsendorf saw a blur of color and giggles go by.
She noticed it was a pack of runners, including kids and parents, and she just so happened to have her running shoes in tow.
“I said, ‘Hey, I like to run.’ So, I just joined them,” she said of what is the celebrated summertime beach run for kids that, after a one-year COVID-19 hiatus, takes place every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. through the end of July.
So, she crashed the Beach Summer Kids Run?
“Yeah, I guess I did,” she said with a laugh.
Soon fitting in perfectly, Ochsendorf was running it with new baby Jessie strapped to her chest two years later. The next year, they graduated to stroller status.
This summer, 9-year-old Jessie will once again be making the trek on her own. Sister Lyla, 7, will join her in what is now an outright family tradition.
“It’s such a fantastic opportunity for so many families to unite. The social benefits are just as important as the exercise,” said Ochsendorf, whose family now lives on Siesta Key. “The girls really missed having it last year.”
The 1-mile event, going from Siesta Beach’s lifeguard towers to the Point of Rocks and back, is co-sponsored by Sarasota County and the Manasota Track Club. Many kids-run participants have become members on the club.
Diehard runner Corey Peyerk of Bradenton is one of them. Like Ochsendorf, he also got his infant daughter, Kennedy, involved straight from the crib.
In fact, he liked the running bond with her so much that they actually entered semi-competitive races as a pair where Peyerk would sprint with Kennedy in a stroller.
On a lighter note, they once won the Lakewood Ranch Beer Belly 5K race with Kennedy on wheels.
“Technically, she won that race. She crossed the finish line before I did,” Peyerk said. “She got a medal for that.”
This summer, he’ll have not only Kennedy, now 4, running on the beach, but 1-year-old sister Riley and five-week-old brother Brady – again, in stroller form.
“It will be so fun to be out there,” he said of the beach run. “Everyone knows Kennedy.”
Meanwhile, the event was so meaningful to Lily Cutler that it led her to joining her middle school track team in Nokomis. Her father, David, discovered the race while living in Lakewood Ranch in 2015 and not only got Lily and son Xavier involved, but his whole neighborhood.
Register before the run at Siesta Beach. It is free and intended for those 18 and younger.
“We’d come down in trucks full of kids, in vans full of kids,” David Cutler said, “and all of us made so many more friends. The camaraderie is strong.”
A big perk is the fact Cutler and his kids even have fans who cheer them on.
“My parents have a place on the Key on the race route. They’ll set up chairs and cheer us on,” he said.