Renee Collins remembers how tough it was to find activities for her children when they were younger. As toddlers, they were too young for T-ball and most other organized sports. Now that her kids are 5 and 8 years old, it’s much easier to find activities to keep them busy.
But when the Vancouver mom learned about a running event fit for toddlers through tweens, she was intrigued. Collins’ niece and nephew, who live in Cottage Grove, Minn., were running weekly races with age-appropriate distances. They were getting T-shirts and goodie bags and competing for points in their age brackets.
The event was offered by Healthy Kids Running Series — a nonprofit taking aim at increasing rates of childhood obesity through five-week running series. The organization, founded in West Chester, Pa., in 2009, is now hosting events in 200 communities across the country.
Beginning this weekend, Vancouver will be among those communities.
Collins and her friend Andrea Long, a former Vancouver resident who recently moved to Portland, signed on as community coordinators and will host the first Healthy Kids Running Series this spring, with plans for another series in the fall.
“I just want it to be fun,” Collins said. “We want people to be involved. We want it to be a fun thing.”
If You Go
• What: Healthy Kids Running Series, age-appropriate races for children 2 to 14 years old.
• When: 4 p.m. Sundays, April 15 through May 13.
• Where: David Douglas Park, 1016 N. Garrison Road, Vancouver.
• Cost: $35 for the five-race series. Register online, www.healthykidsrunningseries.org.
“I just want it to feel really positive,” she added.
Five weeks of fun
While the Healthy Kids Running Series has a heavy presence in the Eastern U.S., it’s not as well known on the West Coast. Mill Creek is the only other city in Washington hosting an event. In Oregon, events are only scheduled in Klamath Falls and Newberg.
The local event will kick off this weekend and run for five consecutive Sundays. Races begin at 4 p.m. at David Douglas Park, 1016 N. Garrison Road, in Vancouver. The event is designed to be a quick experience — perfect for families with busy schedules, Long said.
“You should be in and out of there in about an hour,” Long said. “If you’re looking for a way to get your kids outside and being active, it’s a great way to introduce them, but it’s not a whole day (event).”
The series is unique, Long said, because it offers races, at age-appropriate distances, for kids as young as 2.
Preschoolers compete in 50-yard and 75-yard dashes. Kindergarten through third-grade students participate in quarter-mile and half-mile races. And fourth-graders through middle-schoolers run 1 mile.
The event is set up like an adult event, with race bibs, a marked course and start and finish lines with banners. Every participant gets a medal, and the top performers in each age group over the five-week series will win a trophy.
Entry for the event is $35, which covers all five races. Day-of-race registration is available; Long recommends arriving by 3:15 p.m. to sign up before the first race begins at 4 p.m.
Healthy Kids Running Series, managed by sports marketing firm Pattison Sports Group, relies on local volunteers, like Collins and Long, to organize and run the events. The organization offers support, with a step-by-step guide for pulling off the event and corporate sponsorships that provide T-shirts and swag bags for participants. Collins and Long have also rounded up local sponsors and volunteers to help host the event. (Those interested in volunteering can contact Long and Collins at email@example.com.)
Collins and Long have modest goals for their first series: 75 kids signed up. Already, more than 50 children have signed up — most of them preschoolers, Long said.
“It’s been pretty cool to see how young the kids are who are signing up,” she said.
Long, who has an 8-year-old son, and Collins, who coaches track and cross country, hope the running series will help springboard kids into more active lifestyles.
“Let’s get them outside and get them running,” Long said.