Friday 600 runners from kindergarten to fourth grade at Rann Elementary put on their running shoes to blaze a trail at the school’s Fun Run.
The popular spring event and its fall equivalent, have helped pave a path to back-to-back state titles for several of the members of the Decatur Lady Eagles cross country team.
It has also provided a day of fun and achievement for students, who were joined by family members to run either the half-mile or three-quarters-mile course near the school.
“It’s crazy,” said Rann physical education teacher Kasi Elder. “There are those that love it and those that don’t like running and it doesn’t come easy for them. But they give it their all. Every year, I’m almost in tears because I know how far they’ve come.”
The Fun Run started as part of the President’s Physical Fitness Test, now mandated by the state.
For the first run, students ran a mile. But Elder said the distance was shortened because of the challenging course.
Now, the kindergarten students run approximately a quarter of a mile. The first graders run a half mile. Students in grades two through four have the choice of running or walking a half mile or the longest distance.
The older students wear tags as they would during a 5K or other road race to make it more authentic. All participants received a T-shirt this year.
Since it started, Elder has emphasized the fun of running to encourage kids to make it a lifetime activity.
“We talk a lot about lifelong fitness and even as they get older that they should be able to walk a half mile,” Elder said. “It’s a hard sport to get fired up for and to get motivated to train. We try to make it fun.”
In the weeks leading up to the run, the kids train and show improvement each day.
From the first grade on, medals are given to the top boys’ and girls’ finishers from each race in each category. But Elder said an extra five make it to the school’s honor wall, which is a goal for several of the students.
“Some of the older kids get competitive,” Elder said. “We try to tell them it’s not about winning the race, but bettering themselves. They give it all they have.”
Elder doesn’t have to look far to show examples of how that hard work can pay off.
“Some of those kids with the cross country state rings did the run here,” Elder said.