The Next Generation

My apologies for my lengthy absence.  It started with a sore foot, that caused me to lay off of training for four days.  Then our family took an awesome trip to Disney World and I made a radical choice – I decided to lay low with the running.  I did get out for three 4 mile runs while away, but I chose to spend most of the time sleeping in and enjoying the parks with the family.  Plus, since we were covering 5-6 miles a day walking through the parks, I knew I wasn’t lacking for exercise.  I returned to my regular schedule two days ago and was thrilled to find that two weeks of lower mileage left me with a lot of energy for my runs this week.

Today I had the first session of my after-school running club.  Faculty members at my school are encouraged to sponsor after school clubs for the children to enjoy.  I decided to offer a running club, and today was our first meeting.  I have a group of eight students, ranging in age from kindergarten to fourth grade.  Most of the kids are first time runners, but one is a regular and competitive 5K runner.  I knew that the varying ages and abilities would make it a bit of a challenge to make sure that everyone was feeling the right level of difficulty and still having fun.  I decided that the solution was to stick with interval training.

We started with a short lesson on different types of movement – walking, jogging, running, and sprinting.  I explained to the children that we wanted to spend most of our time in the walking – running range, and that sprinting was usually reserved for when you see the finish line of a race.  After laying down the guidelines, we set off.  We are fortunate that our school backs up to a local college, where there is a wonderful 2.5 mile nature trail that runs around the perimeter.  The children and I set off along the trail and our group quickly spread out as the faster runners took to the front of the pack.  Every 60-90 seconds, I would blow a whistle which signaled the lead runners to turn around and walk back to our final athlete, passing out high fives along the way.  Once the lead runner got to the back of the pack, the group was allowed to take off again.  The varying abilities quickly became apparent.  Some children tired of running within 2-3 minutes, while my experienced runner never stopped the entire time.  We went out along the trail for a little more than 15 minutes before turning around and returning to our starting point.  One of my favorite parts was when the group decided they needed a short break, and every child proceeded to lay down in the grass along the side of the trail.  We made it back to campus, did two short sprints across the soccer field, and then sat down to stretch.

It was such a delight to watch the children racing along the nature path.  Most of them have no concept of how to pace themselves, and they alternated between quick bursts of energy, and foot-dragging slowness.  They all made it through however, and when all was said and done, I estimate that each child covered between 1.5-2.5 miles total.  The time flew so quickly that it makes me sad that we have to wait a whole week before getting back out there.

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