Davee Lester’s first 5K race marked more than one milestone.
It will be three years ago Monday that he had open-heart surgery. And he most likely was the youngest runner Collier’s oldest race — held Saturday — has seen.
Davee Lester is 3 years old.
"I’m very proud of him," said his mother, Kristi Lester, as Davee showed off the 5-inch scar dividing his chest. The surgery he had at 11 months old gave him a clean bill of health.
Standing 3-foot-3, the top of Davee’s head reached the waistband of his father, Darin Lester’s, black shorts. For about three miles, the pair walked, jogged, talked, pointed at dogs and cats and passed a towel back and forth to keep the sweat at bay.
"Run to that orange cone," Darin Lester would say, pointing at a race marker 5 feet away.
Davee pumped his arms and pushed ahead. If Davee kept going, Darin Lester reminded him to walk.
"Do you want to finish now?" father asked son as they approached the halfway point.
Davee shook his brown hair fervently and replied with a loud "No." He gave the same response when asked if he wanted to be carried.
When the pair came around the last bend, Kristi Lester took Davee’s free hand and the three crossed the finish line one hour and 23 seconds after the father and son left Lowdermilk Park.
Darin Lester used to run while pushing his son in a stroller. When Davee got a little older, he rode his bike.
"Then he got mad and didn’t want to ride his bike any more," Darin Lester said. "He wanted to run."
That was about six months ago. Since then, he has run a couple of miles three or four times a week.
Kristi Lester was concerned her ex-husband would push Davee too hard. But she saw he enjoyed it and still had energy for soccer and swimming at the YMCA.
"He’s got boundless energy," Kristi Lester said. "It’s about him being healthy, doing something he likes."
Not everyone supported Davee’s participation in the John Clay/Pilot Club 5K.
Race organizer George Dondanville tried to convince Darin Lester not to let him run, Darin Lester said.
"He told me if he starts running now, he won’t want to do it when he gets older," he recalled. "He told me I’m pushing him and he said, ‘What’s next? A 10K? A half-marathon?’"
But for Darin Lester, his son wants to run now. Whether he does when he gets older will be for Davee to decide.
Dondanville declined to comment for the record about his concerns for the boy.
Davee wasn’t the only youngster running the race.
Julie Evans’ 7-year-old son Micah Evans also took to the course with about 650 other runners.
In the year since she took up running, Micah has tagged along on about half a dozen races.
"They don’t have any fear," Evans said of why youngsters want to be involved in sports at young ages.
Micah doesn’t run on a regular basis. Julie Evans had heard it wasn’t good for them to train young.
"It’s just supposed to be fun," she said. "Those are the special moments."
When she asked him what he liked about the races, Micah said: "Just to run with you."
Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/