Gulfport family prepares for December tradition of Gulf Coast Marathon

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The Walkers are runners.

They’re annual participants in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, and are gearing up for this weekend’s event. Just like years’ past, the three children - Tatum (8), Piper (6), and Brynlee (10) - will run the kids race. Brandon will run the 5K, and then join Patti when she reaches the halfway mark of the full marathon.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s always enjoyable to get the kids out and to see them push themselves and push their bodies, and try to achieve,” Brandon said. “That’s the fun of it, that’s the best part.”

The family’s passion extends into the community as well. Patti and a few of her fellow teachers at Bayou View Elementary School lead a running club of over 100 kids who meet once a week to prepare for the marathon.

“We meet with them every Wednesday for an hour. We try to make it as fun as possible,” Patti said. “We run, we stretch, we run again, and then we do running games. We’ve been doing that since September to prepare for the kids run. That’s our end event.”

Their family tradition dates back to before six-year-old Piper can remember, whose first official event was when she was just one. Hardly able to run yet, but that didn’t stop her from trying.

“Patti would run with Brynlee, I would run with Tatum, and I was pushing Piper [in the stroller],” Brandon said. “She wanted to get out and run little bits, get back in the stroller and so forth.”

The first race for the kids, understandably, was a little nerve-wracking.

“[I was] freaking out because I didn’t know what to do,” Tatum said.

But now that they’re experienced, they look forward to this weekend every year - and especially look forward to what awaits them at the finish line.

“There’s a table of gumbo and it’s cold outside, so we get gumbo. It’s very good,” Brynlee said.

“I love gumbo!” Piper exclaimed.

For everyone participating, marathon weekend is about running. But for many others like the Walkers, running means much more.

“For me as a parent, it’s important to teach them to be active, to be healthy and to be independent and confident,” Patti said. “I think running does all of those things.”

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Michael Dugan

Michael Dugan

Originally from Chicago, Michael Dugan is a graduate of Indiana University.