SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Thousands of people will hit the pavement Sunday for the Sioux Falls Marathon.

The event got its start in 2012 and features everything from a 60-yard youth dash to a full marathon, though running the race isn’t always about crossing the finish line.

The Sioux Falls Marathon is a grueling 26.2-mile race to run and plan, and Sunday is gameday.

“It takes months and months of planning. We always joke that we’re studying for the test, now it’s actually time to take the test,” Sioux Falls Sports Authority Executive Director Thomas Lee said.

The annual event is also a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network at Sanford Children’s Hospital.

“The money that we give here locally, stays locally and that’s to help buy equipment, it’s to help start, establish, and maintain programs for the children, like art therapy, and sometimes ultimately it goes back directly to the families that need that financial assistance,” Lee said.

Max and Don Welker talk about how CMN helped their family
Max and Don Welker talk about how CMN helped their family

“Children’s Miracle Network gave to my family and it’s just one way for me to recognize the contributions that they made to us here locally and us personally as a family,” Harrisburg resident Don Welker said.

Don Welker participates in the Sioux Falls Marathon as a way to say thank you. His son, Max, was born at 25 weeks, one-pound, 13-ounces and spent 127 days in the NICU.

“Day four was a real bad day. They gave us the option to end support and that wasn’t our decision to make so we let God take it from there and he’s 19 now,” Don Welker said.

“They said I’d never be able to walk or talk and ever since I’ve been born I never shut up (laugh),” 19-year-old Max Welker said.

Max is now 19 years old and will run alongside his dad in Sunday’s 5K.

“We egg each other on so it’s a fun competition,” Don Welker said. “Give each other a hard time,” Max Welker said. “So I always let him win by a step or two but maybe not this year, we’ll see,” Don Welker added.

“I do pretty good at competing, so you better watch out,” Max Welker said.

After an uncertain start to life, simply being able to compete is victory enough for Max.

“It definitely means a lot (crying),” Max Welker said. “Yeah, it does,” Don Welker said.

The Sioux Falls Marathon starts at 6:30 Sunday morning at Howard Wood Field.