Students at Langston Hughes School have the run of DeVictor Park twice a week before school starts. That’s where, one mile at a time, 150 children are working on completing 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon.
And now, the parents in charge of the Bobcat Marathon Club hope to expand the program to every elementary school in the district.
“We have gotten this down to a science,” parent and organizer Carrie Mandigo said.
Other schools contacted Mandigo and other marathon club parents seeking advice on how to start a running club, but no one followed through. That prompted the creation of a Marathon-Club-In-A-Box.
“We thought if we came up with something that we could actually give them that would have everything that they would need to get started, that would get a little bit better compliance,” Mandigo said.
The kit includes clipboards, pencils, spreadsheets to keep track of the students and their mileage, suggestions for prizes when runners finish, and a cowbell to celebrate when runners complete the last 0.2 miles of the marathon.
The goal to spread the running bug around to elementary school students is something that four women — Mandigo, Ruth Dewitt, Jill Persinger and Lisa Gard — are doing on their own time, motivated by their passion for exercise and getting children outside.
“We see the positive changes it’s made with the kids,” Mandigo said.
The group of running moms wants to make sure a marathon club is an option for every elementary student in town. A communitywide club will jump-start runners with their first mile at The Mile at a Time Marathon Kick Off on Nov. 7. The event is sponsored by the Hy-Vee at 4000 W. Sixth St.
“It went from a donation, so to speak, from Hy-Vee having the opportunity to get the community involved and get all the kids involved,” Hy-Vee perishables manager Chris Wiltfong said.
Kids can run their first mile at the kickoff event. They can pick up forms at Hy-Vee to keep track of the next 24 miles they need to run. For the last 1.2 miles, the moms are hoping kids will have their own chute at the Lynn Electric Kansas Marathon on April 18, to finish in style.
The run organizers are hoping children who get involved in the marathon begin a habit that will run the course of their entire lives.
“Hopefully, that will spark within them a lifelong love of fitness and exercise so they know they don’t have to be super athletes to complete a marathon,” Dewitt said. “They just do it one mile at a time.”
Registration forms and more information are available at both Hy-Vee stores in Lawrence. The kickoff event is at the Clinton Lake Softball Complex, 5101 Speicher Road, on the walking path at the Rotary Arboretum.