SALT LAKE CITY — Hailey Wolfenbarger walks and bikes to school with her six children every day.
The mother of six, ages 1 to 14 plans as many physical adventures as possible hoping to teach her children that being active isn't a punishment for eating poorly, gaining weight or getting sick. A healthy life is just one of the many rewards offered by an active lifestyle.
But how does a mother teach her children the joy of an active lifestyle? She shows them.
Only, Wolfenbarger readily admits, finding something that all of her children can do and want to do is a challenge. But the greatest challenge isn't always finding something the whole family wants to do, it's being able to afford doing it.
"We try to do as much as we can as a family," she said. "But it gets expensive."
Which is why she was excited to learn of a new program being offered by the Utah Marathon and Fittest State Festival (online at www.utahmarathon.com). She signed up for the half marathon, which cost her $75. But how much does watching their mother run inspire a child? She acknowledges that her decision to run is setting a good example, but nothing illustrates the joy of running like letting a child experience a race as a participant.
That is both the solution and the problem for those with large families. If she signed up her three oldest children for the 5K, she'd be paying $35 each — a total of $105.
But she couldn't leave her fourth and fifth children out, so she'd sign them up for the Kids K — that's another $30.
"It would be about $200 for just my family," Wolfenbarger said. "And I want them to do it and they want to run. Just for them to have the experience of running in front of a cheering crowd is unbelievable."
With the new program, if one family member signs up for a race as part of the event Oct. 13, then any other family members — including siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents — can sign up for races of equal or lesser value for $10. The family members don't have to live in the same household and there is no limit to the number of runners who can sign up.
"We wanted to make certain it's affordable for the entire family," Scott Kerr said, Utah Marathon race director. "We don't want to limit it to only immediate family, and we'd really love to see grandparents get involved."
Winder Farms is the company underwriting the program, and they're offering a prize to the biggest family in the race.
"Winder Farms will offer a prize — a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner — awarded to the family with the most participants," Kerr said. "The larger the better. We want it to become the lifestyle of the family."
As Wolfenbarger can attest, it can't become the family's lifestyle if they can't afford it.
"I think it's thrilling," said the mother of six. "I don't think I've heard of anything like it in the country."
Kerr said organizers realize that the race, whether it's the marathon or the 5K, is the goal most runners train for in the months leading up to the event. So allowing everyone in the family to participate in the goal, the reward, makes it more likely that the family members will help each other train day in and day out.
"I know how it is," Kerr said. "I have a family of five. For us to go do things, it can get expensive."
Wolfenbarger said when she signed her children up they received information about health and fitness, as well as goal setting. She said they love to track not only their training, but what they're eating.
"It gets them motivated to exercise everyday, to think about things, to think about what they eat," Wolfenbarger said. "The other day, we declared a no junk-food day. The material they give us gives us something to talk about. I think this is huge for them."
She's even hopeful other races might adopt the idea.
"I would love to see other races do it," she said. "Especially here in Utah where some of us do have bigger families. This makes it affordable."
In addition to the races on Saturday, Oct. 13, there is a Fittest State Festival that will occur at the Sheraton in Salt Lake City on Oct. 11 and 12. The expo is free and open to the public and there will be vendors, clinics and seminars, as well as a pasta dinner.
After the race, Fitstock is where participants can "celebrate their accomplishments," said Kerr. Live concerts will make the finish area a party and vendors will also make it more of a festival than a finish line.
"The public is welcome to come down and participate," Kerr said. "We'll have great bands, interactive booths and a kids area."