Midtown: Sports

Twins leap over finish line to celebrate a milestone birthday

Cameron Barker and Carson Barker celebrated their third official birthday by running a 2.9-mile road race in Wake Forest on Feb. 29.

Carson sighs.

He has given in to the jokes, wisecracks and humor that will follow him all his life.

Not only is he a leap year kid, but he is the first half of a set of leap year twins, born one minute ahead of his sister, Cameron, on Feb. 29, 2000.

The brother and sister are actually 12, and already weary of explaining to their friends how their age doesn’t line up with their birthday.

“Even though I have had three birthdays, I have actually been on this earth 12 years,” Carson said, a week after his birthday and the first running of the Quadrennial Leap Year Lope, sponsored by the Wake Forest Area Runners.

Cameron, a wide-eyed girl with a mouthful of braces, is approaching her teen years, a time in her life when girls want to fit in, merge with the pack, and be just like everyone else.

Bonnie Barker, the twins’ mom, gives them a pep talk.

“You are rare and special in your own right,” she tells her son and daughter. “It is such a gift to be born on leap day, and that makes you even more special.”

The twins nod.

Barker explains that 12 years ago, when her twins were due to be born, her doctor insisted that she have a C-section on Feb. 29.

“I tried to convince him to let me have the babies on Feb. 28 or March 1, but he insisted it had to be the 29th,” Barker said.

Carson was born at 8:05 that morning and Cameron followed at 8:06.

Bonnie Barker is an avid runner. The twins recently added running into their regular activities, which include softball for Cameron and baseball for Carson.

Both ran the Krispy Kreme 8K in Raleigh last month with their mom and collected four dozen doughnuts, but didn’t eat any of them until after the race, sharing them with friends.

Barker reasoned that a family that runs together parties together and thought the Leap Year Lope would be a perfect way to celebrate a special leap birthday.

“The kids’ grandmother came down from Virginia to participate,” Barker said. “She is 71 and she walked the course.”

Barker’s husband, John, walked too.

“It was perfect, a most memorable way to spend the birthday,” she said.

The Quadrennial Leap Year Lope is the brainchild of Bobby Baxter, a Wake Forest runner who started the Wake Forest Area Runners last year. Nearly 300 members are listed on the group’s Facebook page. Social runs take place on Thursday nights at the Factory on Main Street, according to the group’s website.

The Leap Year Lope was the group’s first organized race and featured a Battle of the Sexes, with the number 29 as its theme.

The race covered a distance of 2.9 miles, the women starting first, at 6:15 p.m. The men’s starting time was 2 minutes and 29 seconds later, and throughout the course of the race, the men attempted to leap past the women to finish first.

The first 29 finishers competed for bragging rights, and when the race was over, the men prevailed, with 17 finishers in the top 29. The women had 12 finishers in the top bracket.

Keri Celeste, 15, was the top female, finishing the race in 18:49. David Bertelli, 37, was the top male with a winning time of 18:09.

Cameron Barker finished in 37:12 and Carson crossed the finish line in 39:45.

Overall, 137 runners finished the race.

Since most of the running was done in darkness, participants received glow sticks for illumination and drama.

“It was creepy running out there,” Carson said. “It was pitch black dark, and all we had were our glow sticks.”

During non-leap years, the twins choose dates to celebrate their birthday. They traditionally have reserved Feb. 28 for a family celebration and observe their birthday on March 1 with friends.

“When they were little, they celebrated together, but now that they are getting older, they have their own parties,” Bonnie Barker said.

Carson celebrated with his friends on March 9, and Cameron has a party planned next weekend.

Statistics on the number of Leap Year babies and twins are hard to find. The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies website reports that the chances of being born on Leap Day are 1 in 1,461. The website also reports that since 1997, 10,000 people have joined the Honor Society.

The twins’ celebrity may be a burden at times, but the kids acknowledge that mostly they feel special.

“After the race, we were called up to help with a prize drawing,” Carson said. “We were introduced as being rare and special.”

Carson and Cameron know that for the rest of their lives they will receive kids’ birthday cards.

This year, they received good wishes on their “third birthday.”

They know that when they get their drivers’ license, they technically will be 4.

But they are okay with that.

For Leap Year kids more than any others, age is but a number.

But a calculator might come in handy.