School running club encourages fun and exercise

Miko Shinoda loves to run. So, when the PTSA president at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School asked her to get involved with the school's running club two years ago, Shinoda, whose third-grader and kindergardener are both in the club, jumped in wholeheartedly.

First-graders Lauren Dye (in pink) and Allie Upton wave a quick hello to the school's orca mascot (parent volunteer Fernanda Pelka) at Running Club before continuing on their way. Students run laps around the school's playground area

First-graders Lauren Dye (in pink) and Allie Upton wave a quick hello to the school's orca mascot (parent volunteer Fernanda Pelka) at Running Club before continuing on their way. Students run laps around the school's playground area

Miko Shinoda loves to run.

So, when the PTSA president at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School asked her to get involved with the school’s running club two years ago, Shinoda, whose third-grader and kindergardener are both in the club, jumped in wholeheartedly.

“I just loved it,” she said.

The club, which is now in its fourth year, was started by physical education teacher Matt Laughlin as a way to get kids running. The club is free for students and paid for by the PTSA, which provides cups, drinks and certificates for students. They meet after school in the fall, once a week for 45 minutes. After signing in and a short warm up and stretching session, the students proceed to run around the school’s playground area, which is a quarter of a mile. They are given a cube for each lap, to keep track of how much they run. The goal is for them to run a total of 25 miles by the last session, which was Tuesday.

Laughlin said the club is in the fall as a build up to the Seattle Children’s Kids Marathon, which is Nov. 27 this year. The marathon is 1.2 miles and combined with the club’s 25-mile goal, makes for the distance of an actual marathon; students can also run at home and turn in their miles. Additionally, as a school, the goal is to have the students’ combined miles stretch across Interstate 90 from Bellevue to downtown Boston — a total of 3,042 miles. Shinoda said by the end of the club’s final session, the students passed Boston and ran 3,293 miles.

Twenty to 30 students was what Laughlin was hoping for when he started the club. But even in that first year, the running club exploded with 110 to 120 students. Membership grew each year and this year, the club boasted a membership of more than 230 students from all grades. Parents often join in on the fun and run with their children as well. Laughlin is the club’s co-adviser with Maryam Worrell, a second-grade teacher who joined the club this year. He said he “never expected anything like this.”

Alcott principal Kimo Spray said with more than 620 students, the fact that roughly one-third of the population is in the club is a testament to the hard work put in by everyone involved.

Laughlin credits the running club’s popularity to the PTSA and parent volunteers, saying they are the ones who make the club possible. He said Shinoda in particular has been a driving force behind the club because she has been responsible for getting neighborhood sponsors to donate items ranging from Luna Bars, apples and other snacks to water bottles and t-shirts.

“That’s made (the club) more popular,” he said.

When Shinoda reached out to local businesses, she thought they would get a few items they could use to motivate and reward the kids in the club. She was not expecting the overwhelming response and “serious swag” she received, especially since they are a school club, not a fundraiser or race.

“I was shocked at how much support we got,” she said.

Shinoda’s 8-year-old daughter Kendall Foley has been in the club for three years and said she enjoys the cool things she gets from being in the club. She said it is one of her favorite things about running club. She also likes how it just gets kids running and exercising. And although it is not competitive — students can run as much or as little as they want, depending on their ability — the club does fire up some friendly competition among the students. Kendall keeps running to stay ahead of her younger sister.

Sixth-grader Emma Young joined the club this year because her mother signed her up, but admitted she wanted to join as well because she enjoys running. The 11-year-old’s favorite thing about the club is being able to run with her friends. And like Kendall, she also likes that the club gets kids exercising.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “Because when most kids get home from school, they play video games.”

Bonnie Young, Emma’s mother, enjoys running and wanted to share her love with her children. She said the running club was a great way to introduce the kids to running on a regular basis. In addition to being “exercise in disguise,” Young said she likes running club because it teaches kids how to set goals for themselves.

Spray added that “running” to Boston also teaches the students how to set goals and work together to achieve a common goal.

This is something Shinoda likes about the club as well, but she said her favorite thing is just seeing students come back week after week. She said running by yourself is not easy, but doing it as a group makes it fun, which is what the running club does. And though Laughlin, Young and several parents sing her praises, Shinoda said with about 35 parent volunteers each session, it is a group effort.

“The parents at this school are awesome,” she said.


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