BLANCHESTER — More than 60 Putman Elementary students crossed mile 21 of 26 this week, all the while getting cheered on by Mr. Redlegs himself.
The Putman Wildcat Running Club, which got started in October, has had kindergarten through third graders run a mile a week. This will accumulate so that they’ve run 26 miles in time for Flying Pig Marathon’s Kids’ 26th Mile Race in Wilmington on April 29.
Rachael Thompson, a parent who started the group, said kids like to run and she wanted to keep spirits high since running can become monotonous.
“The kids were thrilled to see Mr. Redlegs at their school,” said Thompson. “He was so animated and interactive. You can’t help but smile when you see that big baseball head and handlebar mustache.”
The Cincinnati Reds’ mascot certainly made it a memorable day for the little runners. He even ran a couple of laps with them — and Thompson said it inspired the kids to run faster and stronger.
This wasn’t the first special guest they’ve had — Laurie Herman, local pro boxer Zack Thomas, and the Flying Pig mascot have spoken to the group.
Thompson said she wanted this to be a fun and a physically active activity that any child could do. The group also puts a focus on having the kids eat healthier snacks.
“Our snacks are typically fresh or minimally processed items,” said Thompson. “We want to introduce kids to new veggies or different snack ideas, and using the power of positive peer pressure to try new foods.”
Thompson, along with other parent volunteers, has been able to provide the kids with snacks through donations from area businesses, and she’s thankful for the help
Some of her favorite moments over the last year have taken place during snack time. She was delighted that kids tried out colorful veggies and dip, or any unfamiliar food.
“After Thanksgiving, I got sweet potatoes on sale and decided to serve roasted sweet potato halves,” she said. “Many kids were reluctant, but I was so pleased when I overheard one child telling his group, ‘You guys, they actually are good!’”
Even though Ohio’s up-and-down weather hasn’t made things easy, that hasn’t stopped the kids. If the weather isn’t ideal they’ll do their laps in the cafeteria and hallway. Thompson has taken notice.
“I’ve seen changes in many of the kids from the fall to now. Many kids struggled to run a mile. Now they can easily attain that distance, plus more,” she said.
Since the group’s formation, she has seen the kids not only enjoy the social aspect, chatting with friends while running together, but she has seen them achieve their goals.
“The kids feel proud of their accomplishments, each week aiming to run faster and farther,” said Thompson.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574