There are times in your life when you just find the perfect fit in another person or a company. You realize that your goals and philosophies on how to achieve those goals are aligned – when this happens so begins a beautiful relationship. We’ve been very fortunate to find this sort of relationship with our local Running Zone store and non-profit health and fitness foundation, Running Zone Foundation. We’ve been thrilled to participate in the numerous races they manage and time as well as the race series they organize and promote since we moved into the area a year and a half ago. Most recently, we participated in the Running Zone Foundation’s Space Coast Countdown to Fitness. When I first heard about this program, I knew it was for us. Then I read Running Zone owner, Denise Piercy’s, interview in the Florida Today, and I knew without a doubt that this program was definitely for us, as I heard Piercy echo some of the same sentiments I write time and time again about with regards to my children’s running becoming a way of life for them. I couldn’t say it better than Piercy, “We want kids to be inspired to run, but most importantly, we want them to be healthy, smart, and develop a lifelong habit of taking care of themselves.” Yes, yes, yes, I say this all the time! “The goal is to get kids active early in their lives,” said Piercy. “Taking a fun approach like this really makes running something they look forward to, instead of seeing it as work. Kids who exercise are more likely to become happier, healthier adults. Exercise makes you feel good – it helps relieve stress, and makes it easier to handle life’s ups and downs. The earlier we can teach this to kids, the better.”
Space Coast Countdown to Fitness has a simple premise, encourage middle school and elementary school students to run 26.2 miles over the course of a 10 week period. Participants were awarded prizes as they reached five-mile milestones in their running journeys. As a culmination event, a “final mile” one mile race was held this past weekend complete with awesome finisher medals. As simple as the concept, the work put in behind the execution was anything but – 107 elementary and middle schools in Brevard County Florida were sent information about the program and solicited for a “Commander” to take the lead within each school to help students track their mileage and award progress prizes. All participants received school specific T-shirts, prizes, and mileage tracking sheets.
As a running mom of two elementary school participants I was thrilled to hear my boys talking “miles” with their schoolmates. Some of the boys’ friends purchased charity miles trackers (Fitbit like) and measured their daily mileage, some friends went out on runs with their parents (my #1 said longer runs with me after school were his favorite part of the challenge), more friends showed up at our school’s morning mile running program, and extra friends showed up at races (we were thrilled to see and run with more families as #thefamilythatrunstogether). As a known running mom, I was asked lots of questions about running with my boys; how we train, the correct way to breathe, when races are and which ones give out finisher medals, where to buy properly fit shoes, and different ways to lace shoes, just to name a few. All questions that prove participants and their parents engaged in the program.
When the “final mile” race rolled around this weekend the energy level as over 300 kids took to the track to run was electric, all were enthusiastic about running a mile, if only we could all always be as happy to run. As an added bonus there were popsicles at the end of the race, my #2’s favorite part.
Initiatives like Countdown to Fitness require a lot of effort – thank you Running Zone Foundation for putting in the work and encouraging our children to go the distance and run for their health and their future – and they are always worth the effort. Thank you also to Road Runners Club of America and the grant that helped make this initiative possible. Lastly and most importantly, thank you to all the parents and volunteers who supported and encouraged the kids to get fit, get active, and get running.
If you participate in any type of kids’ running program, please comment on your favorite part of the experience! #runitlikeakid