By STACEY SOLT

TN Correspondent

tneditor@tnonline.com [3]

Nearly 550 children headed to the Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Palmerton this weekend for Spartan Kids, their chance to run, slide, crawl, and jump through a muddy obstacle course.

The event was modeled off of this weekend's Spartan Sprint, a five-mile race for adults that was also held at the ski resort. More than 7,000 adult competitors raced up the resort's ski slopes, ran back down the same hills, and faced more than a dozen obstacle courses including rope climbing, scaling muddy walls, and jumping over a fire pit.

Spartan Kids included an age-appropriate obstacle course with plenty of hurdles, tunnel crawls and mud pits for the young Spartans to tackle. Kids also tested their physical abilities by sprinting up the side of the Blue Mountain for a quarter mile. The youth race was open to children between the ages of 4 and 13. Younger children were offered a half-mile obstacle course, while older children faced a mile-long course.

Families drove from hours away to take part in the adult and youth events, looking for a challenge and a fun day outdoors.

"We were looking for something different to do. The kids like doing different things, and they're always playing outdoors," said Michael Wells, a father from Virginia who saw the race online and signed up for the Spartan Sprint. He also registered his four children for the Spartan Kids race. "This was the closest race, so we decided to drive up here."

"I thought it would be fun," added Lauran Wells, 11.

Proceeds from the event benefited the Kids Fit Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to health and fitness programs for children and families. The foundation strives to inspire children to develop a love for fitness at an early age.

"One of our goals is to start them off young," said Christina Mortlock, a representative from the Kids Fit Foundation. "The kids, even at 4 years old, can do these races and have a lot of fun. We have the cutest and best kids come out to run these races. They run it at age 4 and they get hooked on fitness. You don't have to be an athlete, but you should get outside and get active."

She noted that the Spartan program attracts adults and children of all backgrounds. It's a unique physical challenge for adults, and the Spartan program encourages entire families to get involved.

"It's different than any type of mile run," said Mortlock. "Half of these kids are not athletes, half of them are athletes, and it's just really cool to see them all running the race. They're all Spartans at the end."