A group of third-graders burst through the doors of Hough Elementary School and into the outdoor playground.
Fresh from eating lunch, the 8- and 9-year-olds raced to a box of note cards, grabbed the laminated cards with their names and took off running.
“Let’s go!” Avery Ahrens shouted.
He and the others ran along the pathway skirting a grassy field and headed back toward the check-in station — completing a 1/4 -mile loop in just a few minutes. Avery and third-grader Karina Woodley have run more than 50 miles during their lunchtime recesses since October. They’re the front-runners in the school’s new Hough Mileage Club, a voluntary running program open to all students.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for kids to have another option for recess, especially a healthy option and something they don’t need a buddy to do,” said Jenny Mowery, a teacher and librarian at Hough and the program organizer.
The Hough Mileage Club grew out of the school’s annual spring fundraiser, Relay for Hough. For the weeklong fundraiser, students collected pledges and ran laps during lunchtime recess. But every year, students were disappointed to see the event disappear. So this year, the school held the fundraiser in October and used it as a kickoff for the yearlong mileage club.
How to Help
• Those interested in sponsoring or volunteering with the Hough Mileage Club can contact Jenny Mowery at email@example.com
Mowery distributes “race packets” to students during monthly assemblies once they reach certain running milestones: half-marathon (13.1 miles), marathon (26.2 miles), 50 miles, 75 miles and 100 miles. The goodie bags include lanyards, drawstring bags, T-shirts, water bottles and other trinkets.
Karina, 9, has run more than 57 miles since October. She has her eyes on the 100-mile mark.
“It’s fun, and it’s a great way to get exercise,” Karina said.
But she and the others are racing toward their goals with limited opportunities to run. Mileage club is dependent on the weather and volunteers. Mowery is available to run the program only one day per week. The other days, she relies on parents and other volunteers to hand out and punch cards as kids run laps.
While the club at times is competing with other recess activities — organized or otherwise — it still averages about 145 participants per month and spans the student population, Mowery said. Nine students have run full marathons, and 39 have run at least a half-marathon worth of miles.
“The gung-ho kids, they’re gunning for 100 miles,” Mowery said.
Those kids will get a mile or two done in their 25-minute recess, she said. Other students use it as an opportunity to walk with their friends and socialize, Mowery said.
Third-grader Johnnie Langley, 9, recently completed the half-marathon distance.
“There’s some kids that like to run,” Johnnie said. “I’m not one of those kids. But when mileage club first came to the school, I thought ‘This is a fun activity I can do and walk with my friends.’ ”
Mowery hopes to see the program continue beyond this year, but that’s dependent on support, she said. The program is using money raised during the Relay for Hough event and contributions from the Hough PTSA to purchase prizes and incentives to keep the kids active.
At the beginning of the year, organizers secured coupons from The Rock Wood Fired Pizza and Sky Zone Trampoline Park, as well as an ongoing donation of Kind bars. The coupons for free pizza and trampoline jump time, though, have all been distributed.
Now, the PTSA is searching for local organizations and businesses to partner with the program. The goal is to not only get kids active, but connect them with their community and develop lifelong healthy habits, said Katerina Martin, PTSA president. Martin has seen the students, including her daughter, Karina, become empowered and confident through the mileage club.
“We just hope to keep it going,” she said.