WEST CHESTER, PA (CBS) - A 9-year-old Pennsylvania boy plans to run a marathon tomorrow in Antarctica. He's doing it for a good cause, but many experts don't think children should be running such long distances.
While most 9-year-old boys are focused on playing video games or skateboarding, Nikolas Toocheck is training for marathons. He says, "I like running better than watching TV and stuff."
His dad says he first saw his passion before he was born. Daniel Toocheck says, "Well I guess he's always been active even when he was in the womb. I mean his feet were always moving."
Nikolas ran his first race when he was 6-years-old. He completed his first marathon in December in just under six hours.
For most adults, running one marathon is grueling enough, but this fourth grader from West Chester, Pennsylvania, won't stop there.
Should a 9-year-old be running marathons? His mom "He's not looking to compete in these marathons he's looking to complete them. He's not being hard on his body by running and pounding with coaches pushing him trying to meet times, things like that."
Some marathons do allow children to race, but no studies have ever been done on the long-term health effects. And the International Marathon Medical Directors Association thinks kids running such long distances are a bad idea. Their statement says, "Children are not small adults. Their anatomy and physiology are developing and not fully mature."
His mom says, "We were worried about the long term effects to the growth plates, is there any detriment to that. That's why we went to the doctors to make sure that he's safe. (The doctors say) Yeah they don't have any reservations with the way he's doing it."
You could say Nikolas is following in the footsteps of his father, an Air Force reservist, medical doctor, and avid marathoner himself. Together, they go on long training runs four to five times a week. Nikolas says, "Like, if it's raining outside I don't say like, 'Hey it's raining, we can't go run.' We go out in any weather."
That training could come in handy during the White Continent Marathon in Antarctica. Mom says it freaked her out a bit at first. She says, "Well yeah, I thought the same stereotypical like, what are you kidding me? You're not taking my kid in negative degrees and running on glaciers." Dad adds, "But we are running on Kind George Island, part of the 2-percent that is not covered in ice." Nik says, "I think it will be really fun. I'm really excited to meet a penguin."
Nikolas also hopes every stride he takes will help Operation Warm, a charity started by his grandfather to provide winter coats for needy children. Operation Warm founder Dick Sanford says, "He's trying to raise a million dollars through a million footsteps."
After Nikolas finishes his seventh marathon, he has his sights on a 100-mile race, over five days, through the Himalayas. Moms says, "Something he said to us early on is: I'm small, and I'm making a difference in the world. The fact that that came out is the most, I mean, I'm going to cry. It's just so... Incredible to me."