AT RANDOM: Running with heart

In their oversized T-shirts and mile-wide smiles, children from elementary schools across the district wait for the starting gun that signals the first race of the cross country running season.

And they’re off! Hundreds of kids, arranged according to grade, leave the starting line at JW Inglis elementary school in Lumby for the Monashee Cross Country Run, their legs pumping across the field, hoping to triumph at the finish line.

With parents cheering on the sidelines, these kids gave it their all Wednesday. Sure, some were a little more skilled while others had a little more trouble keeping up, but to see this huge group of kids out on the field, running, having fun and not sitting in front of a TV or with a DS in their hands was something to behold.

When my Grade 1 daughter expressed an interest in joining her school’s cross-country team, I fully supported her decision and the first order of business was getting her a pair of “real” running shoes: the kind with laces, not the kind with velcro and flashing lights (fun though those are). The next order of business was mastering the art of tying shoes.

I was on the track and field team in high school, and was admittedly not a particularly skilled runner, but loved going to the meets with my friends and discovered what has become a life-long love of running.

With practices twice a week during lunch hour and three races throughout April: the first on Wednesday, the Paddlewheel Push-Off Run next week at Marshall Field and the Commonage Cross Country Run the following week, the kids are busy learning new skills while burning off some of their excess energy.

And for anyone who still thinks teaching is a job that ends at 3 p.m., the dedication shown by the district’s teachers, principals and vice-principals continues to astonish me.

My daughter’s teacher finished up in the classroom in Vernon and then made the drive out to Lumby to cheer on her students, enthusiastically telling them how well they’d done.

And she is just one of the many teachers giving up their lunch break (a break that I suspect is much needed after a morning of teaching) to coach the cross-country teams twice a week.

At the meet itself, I saw principals leading warm-ups, cheering on kids, I saw administrators showing their support. When we left at 4 p.m., it was still going on.

So even with the doom and gloom of cuts to education funding, there are so many good things happening out there for kids. Here is a sport that, besides a pair of running shoes, doesn’t cost anything to join and, for intermediate grades, provides busing to and from the meets.

And the camaraderie amongst the kids was fantastic: older kids from rival schools cheered on the younger ones, encouraging them to keep going when their little legs wanted to stop.

And of course for parents, there is the added bonus of the entertainment factor: watching our precious kids giving it their all. One friend said it was hysterical watching these little ones dashing across the field; another was choked up watching her son give it his all. It is definitely one of those wonderful moments of parenthood: that lovely sense of pride you feel as your child enjoys him/herself, as they learn a new skill, and the pride they feel in themselves.

And, while my daughter finished near the back of the pack, she wasn’t too worried. Later that night, reflecting back on the race, she said simply, “That was so much fun.”

And that’s what it’s all about. Kids know, without being told, that exercise feels good. So when their races were over, these kids weren’t sitting around relaxing — they were in the playground, jumping, climbing, swinging and laughing.

Katherine Mortimer is the lifestyles editor for The Morning Star.

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