Decked out in bright yellow Riverview School T-shirts, a large group of kids ranged from toe-touching and stretching their arms high above their head, all the while eagerly keeping an eye on their teacher for direction.
The group is part of a marathon club organized by physical educator Jen Thomson, who has dedicated her time over the past five years to getting kids into running.
"It’s about keeping our kids busy here and giving them opportunities they may not normally have," Thomson said. "Our particular area is a low-income area, so it introduces them to a healthy activity they may not have had the opportunity to take up."
The marathon club, or the Kilometre Club as it’s officially known, is just getting started this year as the chilly weather starts to fade. So far, 19 kids have signed up to run.
"It averages about 23 students each year," Thomson said. "I’m hoping we get more (students) this year. I’m hoping to hit that 30 mark."
The Kilometre Club has two parts — a running challenge that takes place throughout the month of May and participation in the YMCA Spring Run.
"(The students) try and run a marathon in a month during recesses," Thomson said. "We run throughout the month of May during morning and afternoon recesses, and every four laps is 1.6 kilometres," Thomson said.
Thomson also volunteers — along with fellow Riverview teachers, including Maureen McDuffe — to take the Grades 3 to 6 kids involved to the YMCA Spring Run, which includes a pre-race pasta dinner.
"They’re so excited to wear these bright yellow Riverview T-Shirts to identify themselves on the run. They have lots of fun doing it," Thomson said. "They also love the fact at the end of the YMCA run that they get a medal."
Thomson’s passion to bring running to her students has the support of her children, who sometimes join the run with the kids to help out.
"My son and my daughter have helped over the years with the faster runners … I usually stay back with the slower runners and make sure everyone gets in," Thomson said. "It’s wonderful to have (my kids) help out. They’re used to giving back, they went to (École secondaire) Neelin High School and participated and helped coach in Neelin’s Mini Spartans program. They understand that giving back is very important."
Aside from having fun, Thomson said the students who participate in the marathon running grow into an encouraging support system for each other.
"The kids are so supportive of each other and it doesn’t matter what place they come in … No matter if they’re the last one or the first one, they’re happy for that person that came in first and they’re supporting and cheering for that last runner," Thomson said. "That’s what I love about this. It’s all about the community."
The 38th Annual YMCA Spring Run will take place May 28. Registration is open now at ymcabrandon.ca.
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