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Woodward students aim for 26.2 miles
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Students at Walter Woodward Elementary gathered on the steps of the school's amphitheater, donning new T-shirts.

Emblazoned across the front was a Millennial twist to an age-old activity: iRun.

And they did, collectively completing yet another mile toward their goal of a progressive marathon. For the layman, that's 26.2 total miles.

The Woodward Running Club has been at this now for four years and the after-school activity remains as popular as ever. 

See, kids weren't the only ones wearing iRun T-shirts. There were parents pushing strollers, teachers chasing students and other staff members pushing toward the finish.

All told, 167 members, mostly children, have turned circles around the campus just south of the 120 Bypass in the name of health, school spirit and sheer fun.

"We have a lot of staff members that are runners and walkers. The kids see that and want to be a part of that," teacher Jennifer Dooley said.

Runs are scheduled for each Monday and Thursday following the final bell. A speaker is rolled out onto the blacktop near the gazebo, where students toss their book bags, jackets and lunch sacks.

They trot out onto the field and toe the starting line. Some stretch. Some pick a running partner. Some dance to the marathon mix. Some choose their lane, digging their sneakers into the soft turf.


Out here, iRun might be the popular slogan, but it's clear "WeRun" is a more apt description of the craze enveloping the Woodward community. 

"There's a huge advantage to what we're doing. It brings the parents out and gets them involved with us. It gives our kids goals; long-term goals that they have to achieve. It builds excitement. It builds up our energy levels," said Heather Thomson, a program coordinator at the school. "We're focusing on being healthy here at the school."

The program is propped up on the shoulders of many. Thomson teams with Dooley to coordinate the club's run, and the duo is quick to shine praise on volunteers Chanthon Phe, Jennifer Bettencourt, Josh Taylor, Lizette Smith and Ashley Almeida.

Each plays an integral role in the corralling and supervising the students. On this day, Thomson and Dooley cheer on the students, while Smith and Almeida man the finish line, doling out toe tokens of all kinds of colors.

Each finisher receives a toe token, a keepsake commemorating the mile they've just completed.

Ultimately, the Woodward Running Club is working toward a much bigger prize. A medal. Woodward is scheduled to complete its progressive marathon on April 4 at the "Hit the Streets for Hunger" 5-kilometer run. Those that can't participate will finish the marathon on Tuesday, April 7, on campus.

This healthy activity has fostered healthy relationships. 

Students Jessica Almeida clings to friend Rebecca Thomson following their run. Two kids have never been so excited to run, so say their smiles.

"I've always loved to run," said Thomson, a 9-year-old fourth grader. "I enjoy (the running club) because I can be with my friends and have fun."

Carson Smith, 10, might be shy and reserved, but he runs unabated along the course that weaves through a playground, near the courtyard and between classrooms. 

He chases no one, because often times, there's no one out in front of him.

"I just come out and run," said Smith, a fifth grader working toward his third progressive marathon. 

Sara McGuire has a front-runner in the family, too. 

Make that four.

Her three oldest children are members of the club: Madison, Kaden, and in the brown boots and a T-shirt two sizes too big, little Delaney.

A fourth, Clara, is too young to walk or run, but she rides along in a stroller pushed by Sara.

"This keeps us fit and it's fun to do. They're excited," McGuire said as her three oldest posed for the club's photo. "They love to collect the toe tokens. They love to run with their friends. And they love to run with music.

"My son, Kaden, outruns us all by four or five minutes. This has become his thing and he brags about it at home. It's cute."

Clutching Clara, McGuire also recognizes that, run or walk, young or old, the Woodward Elementary community chases its marathon finish line together.

"It's nice that they let the family members do it," she said. "It's fun for the whole family."


To contact Managing Editor James Burns email Follow him on Twitter at jburns1980.