When the bell rings at Willett Elementary School on Tuesdays and Thursdays and children in grades 1-3 are released for the day, they don’t all head to the bike racks or pickup zone.
At least 60 to 70 of those kids head to the field behind the school and start running. And they run and run, around and around the field, quarter-mile after quarter-mile for a full half-hour.
Second-grader Gazaw Baker is often at the head of the pack, slowing down only long enough to receive a mark on his arm each time around in order to keep track of his laps.
He regularly runs two or three miles during the 30-minute “Challenge Club” session.
His biggest complaint, says teacher Lindsay Upcraft, “is when we say, ‘OK, last lap,’ and he says, ‘What? Can’t I do three more?’ ”
“For some of them, anything less than 12 (laps) and they’re upset,” she added.
Parent Stephany Cavatoni loves that these kids love to be out there running.
They don’t even have to do much to sell the activity to kids — students see their classmates and friends out there running and immediately want to join in.
“It gets them some exercise after school, instead of going home and playing on the iPad,” she noted.
And it’s a nice activity for students who normally have to wait around for older siblings who aren’t dismissed until a half-hour later.
The Challenge Club after-school running program has been taking place for several years and always concludes with the “Running of the Owls,” named after the Willett mascot. The family fun run is open to to all Davis families, not just Willett families, and takes place Sunday, May 4, beginning at 8 a.m. at 1207 Sycamore Lane.
The runs — which include a quarter-mile, a 1-mile and a 5K — begin in Sycamore Park, with the longer runs going over the pedestrian overpass and through Arroyo Park. All finishers receive a Fun Run Dog Tag award.
And the fun doesn’t end with the run — activities will continue back at the school after the running is over, including a pogo tournament, a basketball knockout game and a fitness contest. Food and drink vendors also will be present, Cavatoni said.
Race-day registration fees are $25 for the 5K and $15 for the quarter-mile and 1-mile races.
For more information and to see the race routes, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/willett-elementary-family-fun-run-tickets-10984971345.
Last year, about 150 people participated in the fun runs and organizers are hoping for even more.
They’ll have some stiff competition in these Willett runners, though.
Last Tuesday featured runner after runner hitting the two-mile mark before the session was even over.
Teachers Upcraft and Kris Inouye have been running the Challenge Club this year and are out there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, tallying laps and encouraging the students. More than 100 students have signed up for the running club this year and many will top 50 miles by the time the school year ends.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy