As the colder months approach us, it is hard to find an activity for our little ones to keep them active. The influx of sugary sweets filling their trick-or-treat bags, the delicious desserts at the holiday table…it all makes it hard to make a good choice when it comes to healthy options. Why not motivate the kids to get ready for a fun outdoor activity to finish off the fall? They may even want to come back for the spring! Get your kids moving with the Healthy Kids Running Series, a non-profit initiative that shows children just how fun running can be.
Healthy Kids Running was created by Jeff Long, Founder and President of Pattison Sports Group, with the goal of getting kids involved in the sport of running. The series began in the fall of 2009 in West Chester, Pennsylvania with just 150 total runners. As the program grew, thousands of runners now participate across the United States. Now nationally recognized and sponsored by several companies, the Healthy Kids Running Series has become the ideal sport for kids around the nation. As childhood obesity statistics climb, it’s important to have an outlet that children can use to get active. Dan Slattery, Healthy Kids Community Coordinator for the Hampden, Massachusetts chapter, feels the Healthy Kids Running program is fueled by its motto. “The Healthy Kids Running series motto is ‘get up and go.’ Healthy Kids Running’s goal is to get kids outside and being active.”
Thanks to the help of Dan and volunteers of the local events, Hampden has been able to hold the Healthy Kids Running series for two years. Their first season in spring 2016 was a wild success, and the group is currently finishing off their second season. With a goal of getting kids moving, the Hampden chapter plans to keep up the races. Dan shared, “The goal of the Healthy Kids Running Series is to provide kids with a positive, educational, and fun experience in the world of running.”
Runners race at Green Meadows Elementary School for each event. Every participant completes the program with a medal, but those who reach the finish line first receive a shiny Healthy Kids Running Series trophy. To keep the competition fair, all runners compete in a race format tailored to their abilities based on age group. The race consists of five different routes. Runners will compete in either a 50-yard dash, a 75-yard dash, a 1/4 mile start, a 1/2 mile start, or a 1 mile start. Each race’s route blends into the next race, both headed for the same finish line. This allows for runners of all abilities to have the opportunity to race in each event. Children from Pre-K to 8th grade (aged 2-13) are welcome to participate in the event, with younger children running in shorter races, and older kids in the longer races.
Running with their own age group gives kids the chance to not only exercise in a fair competitive environment, but to build friendships that can follow season to season, even in the classroom at school. While runners are encouraged to be inspired by their statistics to practice and develop skills, there are no practices or expectations for runners to be great at the sport. It’s all about having fun, whether runners are speedy or not. This builds a healthy level of competition without the stressor of winning.
Over 33 states currently hold their own chapter of the Healthy Kids Running Series, which means children in several communities are being given the opportunity to exercise in an exciting, judgment-free environment. Coupled with the chance to make friends and win awards, the initiative has become a fun hobby for children.
While the Healthy Kids Running Series is considered a competition, attendants of the races don’t see it as such. Guests and families cheer on all runners, even motivating kids who are still running after the first runner has crossed the finish line. Dan is happy to see the other benefits of the program. “It is great to see all of the kids running and seeing them cross the finish line and feeling proud of what they have accomplished. One of the best parts of the race is watching and hearing all of the cheering for the runners, most especially for the runners that are finishing toward the back of the pack. The Healthy Kids Running series is not only about the runners that finish at the top, but is as important for all of our runners to feel accomplished.”
With unhealthy foods all around us, and sweets that are enticing, it can be hard to introduce children to healthier choices. Kids are likely to snub Brussels sprouts or green beans, but it’s not impossible. To make this easier, the Healthy Kids Running Series also offers a blog that discusses a range of topics, including the steps needed to head toward a more nutritious diet, how to find the proper shoes for running, and what to expect your first time running with the group. The additional resources make it easier than ever to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
It’s important to have the Healthy Kids Running Series represented in Western Massachusetts. While most other chapters are a distance away, the Hampden chapter gives Western Massachusetts’s kids a wonderful opportunity to exercise and socialize in their community. Dan feels the Healthy Kids Running Series is “a great community event in Hampden that promotes health and wellness.”
Do you think your community would be a great place to start up a Healthy Kids Running chapter? Join in on the fun of health and sports by visiting www.healthykidsrunningseries.org. Healthy Kids Running is always looking for volunteers to help out with existing chapters as well. Volunteers can hold duties such as stretching runners, warm-ups, registration assistance and marshaling the course. As Dan shared, “It’s an event the whole family can participate in.”
For the fall, races conclude on October 14th.
So lace up your running shoes…”on your mark, get set, go” onward to a healthy lifestyle! While season sign-ups have concluded for the fall, it’s not too late for you to bring your child to Green Meadows Elementary School at 38 North Road, Hampden, Massachusetts on October 14th. The race begins at 4:30pm. The fee to register for next season is $35, but single-race options are also available for a one time race, costing $10. Registration for next season will open closer to the springtime. For more information on the Hampden chapter of the Healthy Kids Running Series, contact Dan Slattery at email@example.com