Running is a part of training for many youth sports. But it was the main event for one group of kids gathered outside the Ivanhoe school building earlier this week. In fact, it was almost impossible to get them to slow down.
"Come on, let's go!" called second-grader Jackson Lacek as he and classmates lined up for a timed race through an obstacle course. Kids crab-walked, skipped over hoops laid out on the ground, jumped rope and did other stunts before sprinting to the finish line.
A few minutes later, they were begging to go with club leader Michelle Thomsen on a distance run around the school.
Photo by Deb Gau
Abby Rost, at left, and Claire Rost put on some extra speed to make it to the finish line during a meeting of Ivanhoe’s Running Club. The club is geared toward elementary school students, from kindergarteners to sixth-graders.
The kids - a group of students ranging from kindergarteners to sixth-graders - were taking part in a running club offered through Ivanhoe Community Services. Local parents in both Hendricks and Ivanhoe have been leading children's running clubs for the past two years.
"It teaches kids the importance of exercise," Thomsen said. "And running is something you can do anytime."
But mostly it's a lot of fun, kids said.
"I've always been a big fan of sports," said Brookelyn Barstad, so she liked getting the chance to run.
"I like playing the games, like duck, duck, goose," Lacek said.
"We play games like color tag and kickball," added Abby Schaefer. She was holding a notebook and marker she used to write down everyone's completion times for the obstacle course.
The Hendricks and Ivanhoe Running Clubs had their start in 2010, as the Lincoln HI Running Club. Pam Olsen, a Hendricks resident and a runner herself, founded the club partly to spark kids' interest in competing in cross country, and partly to encourage an active lifestyle.
"The kids had fun," Olsen said. When the Hendricks and Ivanhoe school districts ended their partnership, Olsen and Thomsen decided to form separate clubs, one at each school.
"It just seemed natural," Olsen said.
Participation is still good, with about 20 kids taking part in Hendricks and about 30 in Ivanhoe. Both clubs are active for a few weeks in the fall, with sessions after school.
Olsen said the running club isn't all about cross country running. She tries to talk about the importance of exercise and eating right, and club activities are varied.
"We play different games, have scavenger hunts and relays," she said. "Then when we're finished, I'm like, 'Did you even know you were running the whole time?'" The kids are often surprised, she said.
Thomsen said she keeps things pretty casual, offering different activities for different age levels of kids. Club members also learn a little bit about running technique and safety, with stretches and warmup exercises.
"Our goal is to have the kids run as far as they would at a cross country meet," though not necessarily all at once, Thomsen said. Some of the Ivanhoe club members have completed runs up to two miles long, she said.
The big end-of-season treat for kids in both clubs is a chance to go to a cross country meet hosted in Canby. Thomsen said that would be where some of the Ivanhoe club members would be headed next week. Although the Hendricks club's fall season is already over, Olsen said some of the club members are excited to try participating in a community 5K run later this month.
"We may meet the week before the run," to do a little training, Olsen said.