Run, Nikolas, run!
Last September, 12-year-old Nikolas Toocheck accomplished his goal of running a marathon on all seven continents. As the youngest person in history to complete the task, the Pennsylvania native has decided to take on a new challenge – running a marathon in all 50 states.
And he’s already off to a great start. The soon-to-be seventh grader finished his twelfth marathon in the U.S. last month. Internationally, he has run marathons in Chile, Australia, Zimbabwe, Switzerland, the Republic of Georgia and Antarctica twice!
“My first marathon was when I was nine,” Nikolas tells PEOPLE. “I think it’s the greatest sport. It doesn t really have rules, so you can let loose and just go run.”
“When I’m running, I feel so relaxed, it’s fun and really good for you too,” he adds.
“My favorite marathon was in Switzerland because I really like to run in extremes and the terrain is always a big part of it,” he shares. “It was raining the whole time, so that was the extreme part of it. Also, we were going up mountains, and it was just really awesome and super fun.”
His father, Daniel Toocheck, has been with him every step of the way (literally!) and describes his son as a “high energy individual,” who truly is the “young Forrest Gump.”
Nikolas is not only a runner, but also a football player, wrestler, baseball player and ping-pong guru.
“It’s funny because a lot of people are like, ‘Wow, you have all these world records for running and everything, are you going to do cross country?’ He’s like, ‘Well, I can’t because I’m going to play football,’ ” Daniel tells PEOPLE.
“The beauty of it is that he’s a straight-A student,” the proud dad adds. “He doesn’t let the sports stuff interfere with the academics either.”
As active as he is, Nikolas still finds time to be a kid, especially on the marathon course.
During the Kona Marathon in Hawaii, Daniel says Nikolas asked his mom to bring him snacks to eat during the race.
“He’s like, ‘I want a Frappuccino. I want a 20-oz. Frappuccino.’ She brought cookies and stuff too. At mile 18, we’re out there running and we’re drinking these frozen drinks. He got a sugar high and he was raring to go again. He runs like a 12 year old.”
Nikolas doesn’t just race for the love of it, he also runs to raise funds for two charities: Operation Warm, which was founded by his grandfather and provides winter jackets to kids who can’t afford them, and the Seva Foundation, an organization that fights to eliminate treatable blindness.
My grandson Nik is an amazing boy,” Sanford tells PEOPLE. “His passion for running is only exceeded by the kindness of his heart and desire to help those in need. Thanks to Nik s fundraising for Operation Warm, thousands of children living in need have experienced the happiness and warmth of a new winter coat. The team at Operation Warm and I could not be more proud of Nik and all he has accomplished.
Nikolas adds: “I came up with this saying, ‘Do what you love for good.’ “Running is what I love, and the good part of it is that I’m helping other people. Anyone out there could do anything they like and help people at the same time. When you’re doing what you love, you’re making a difference in the world.”