Fremont youth run half-marathon with three-week YMCA program
During the Fremont Family YMCA’s Youth Run Club, Jeff Morgan said a local cross country team ran by the children taking part.
“And this one little kid goes, ‘Did they join the club?’” he said. “And I told them, ‘Oh, they’re in the advanced club.’”
Children from kindergarten to sixth grade recently took part in the Youth Run Club, which ran from July 20 to last Thursday. The program was operated by Membership and Marketing Director Valerie Prenzlow and Morgan, program director for the YMCA.
The runners met every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 a.m. to run. The group, which had just under 10 children participating, ran a total of a half-marathon, or 13.1 miles, during the course of the three-week program.
One runner, 8-year-old Carter Paulson, ran a full marathon of 26.2 miles.
“It’s just a good way to keep kids active and it’s goal-oriented,” Morgan said. “And it’s not really a race, so anybody can go at their own pace and still accomplish a goal.”
Although Prenzlow had held a youth run group a few years ago, she said this was the first time it had taken place at the Fremont YMCA since then.
“It’s a contactless sport, so we thought it’d be good during the pandemic to be able to offer it, a good and safe one to do,” she said. “So since there wasn’t much going on for the younger group of kids this summer, we thought it’d be a great way to have anywhere from kindergarten on up to stay active.”
At the beginning of each 45-minute session, the runners would have their temperatures taken before starting warm-up exercises.
“Each day that we met, we started out with stretching to get loosened up and talked through techniques of running and different things that could help them,” Morgan said. “And then from there, we utilized the sidewalks along the edge of the Y that run along the Wellness Center up Lincoln Street.”
The children ran to a predetermined point and back for a quarter-mile, with four laps making a mile. Their distance each day would be kept track of and totaled with the previous sessions’ distances.
Depending on each runner’s ability and timeline, Prenzlow said they were able to go at their own pace. Every three miles, the children were given a bracelet of a different color.
“Then they got another bracelet once they hit the half-marathon,” Prenzlow said. “And then we did a little awards ceremony at the end where they got a medal for finishing a half-marathon total with their miles.”
With the goals set for them, Prenzlow said the runners loved getting to take part in the program and saw many of them increase their goals as it went on.
“They were always like, ‘How many more miles am I? Where am I at? When do I get my next bracelet?’” she said. “So that was cool to hear. They were always asking to know where they were at.”
Prenzlow said the program taught the children involved on how to make the running fun, as it’s something they can do any time, inside or outside.
“From the beginning, the first week to where they ended, was a pretty good pace and really cool to see the enjoyment they had,” she said. “And everyone came back every time, and we didn’t have any kids drop out.”
The runners also enjoyed the social factor, as Morgan said many of them had been cooped up inside with no way to see any of their friends.
“And I think it was a really safe environment, too,” he said. “It was outdoors, we had plenty of space to work with to keep them distanced, and yet they could still interact and have fun.”
Morgan said he was looking forward to the Youth Run Club meeting again in the fall, which will run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 22 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m.
But Morgan said he was proud of this summer’s runners with the program, which he said was a much-needed activity for them.
“We saw kids that when they showed up, they weren’t really running hardly much at all, and by the end, they were running full laps and not stopping at all,” he said. “And I think that can translate down the road to, with running really being a life sport, they can get that love for it early on.”