HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (KT) – Six-year-old Jarek Compston not only conquered the Marshall half marathon on Sunday, but he nearly doubled his fundraising goal for children in Uganda.
Jarek, the son of Kentucky Baptists Chris and Amy Compston of the Amy For Africa mission, finished the half marathon in 2 hours, 17 minutes and 36 seconds – the second-fastest time ever recorded for a 6-year-old in the United States - while running side-by-side with his mother through the downtown streets of Huntington.
They were cheerfully greeted throughout the 13.1-mile race that started and finished at Joan Edwards Stadium on the campus of Marshall University.
The weather was picture-perfect and the warmest in the 15-year history of the Marshall University Marathon. Hundreds of runners participated in either the half marathon or marathon, a 10K or 5K.
Jarek told his mother in August that he could run a half marathon and they decided to do it as a fundraiser for Amy For Africa, which is sending a 10-member team to Uganda the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They have 1 ton of Christmas gifts to take to Africa and Jarek’s goal was to raise $5,000 to pay for shipping. He reached that two weeks ago and the goal was upped to $7,500 to also provide a Christmas meal for 2,500 Ugandans.
He had raised $9,540 as of Saturday night with more expected to come in this week.
Jarek’s story has been in newspapers and on television stations and he has attracted national attention and received donations in multiple states.
His mother, a seasoned marathon runner who counts four Boston Marathons among the six world marathons she has run, trained Jarek for the past 2 ½ months for his longest run to date. He had previously participated in several 5Ks and 10Ks, but the 13.1 miles was the most he’d done in practice or in a race. The strategy was to run and walk the course.
“He did awesome,” Amy said. “His attitude was great, he was so strong and his last mile was a 9-minute mile so he was pushing hard.”
The last mile was his fastest, his mother said. “He kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger as he went. A couple of times I had to tell him to calm down. John Davis gave him great advice to listen to his mom and he did. I’m so proud of how hard he worked.”
Jarek was 487th out of 1,015 runners, defeating better than half the participants. He was 14th out of 19 in the 1-19 age group.
As they were nearing the finish, Amy said it was hard to hold back the tears.
“We were about .2 from the finish line and he was like 'Are we finished yet?' and I told him not until you see the finish line," she said. “It was hard not to cry. I was so proud.”
When asked how he would spend the rest of his day, Jarek shrugged and said, “Watch TV.”
His mother said he could watch television or do whatever else he wanted to do until it was time for church.
Amy Compston is the face of the Amy For Africa mission that she co-founded in 2013. A registered nurse, she has been working as a fulltime missionary for AFA since March. She was previously a 13-year career nurse at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland before surrendering to the ministry.
The money beyond the $7,500 that has been raised will be set aside for a future property purchase in Uganda where AFA operates a Christian school near Jinja.
The message of the day was simple, she said.
“Through Christ you can do anything and Jarek is living proof of that today,” she said. “It wasn’t Jarek or me who did it but it was God through him. Thank you to everyone who has joined Jarek’s Journey. This is just the beginning of Jarek’s Journey. When we get over there in three weeks and pass out thousands of gifts and dinners to these people, that’s where Jarek’s Journey begins. I want him to see every person who gets these gifts.”
Last year, Jarek ran his first 10K and raised more than $3,000 to purchase Bibles for Ugandans.
The Amy For Africa mission is headquartered in Ashland, Kentucky. Learn more about it at amyforafrica.com or Amy For Africa on Facebook.