They're not running a full marathon yet but, for these two and a half thousand school children, it's just as big a deal.

"They're doing the last 2km of the actual Rotorua Marathon," said event director Melissa Gordon, of Sport Bay of Plenty.

"Leading up to the event, they are given passports where they can track 40km in preparation.

"Hopefully it just builds a love for running, and taking part in something physical."

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The annual event was first held in 2010 with 60 kids taking part. Its growth has surpassed even the organiser's wildest dreams.

"This year we have 28 schools involved. One of the largest participation rates is from Otonga Primary School which has 471 students here today. Rotorua Intermediate has almost 300 kids. So many schools get behind it.

"We even have some schools from Tauranga, who have brought children along as well which is just great."

It's the largest event in the Central Bay of Plenty school sports calendar, with hundreds of parents turning out to support their children.

"The thing I really love about it is it's a participation event, it isn't about winning or placing, it's more about the kids having fun.

"Also, the year one and two children have their parents running alongside them, which is awesome."

Gordon says the project wanted to fire a love for running in the kids, giving them a taste of what to expect in the future.

"It brings many people together in a positive atmosphere.

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"The kids are out in the fresh air, they are being active which is great for their well-being and obviously their physical being as well."

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