Run, Saffell, run

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Thanks to $1,000 grant, running club may lead to spring 5K

By Meaghan Downs

Landen Lovitt isn’t sure how far he’s run.
He runs because running is fun.
The fourth grader doesn’t run because he wants to be pulled out into the hallway to talk to a reporter, to be taken away for a moment from the gym where all his friends are playing.
He definitely doesn’t run to count how many permanent marker bubbles he’s filled on his laminated cards or how many of those circles have been punched out with a hole puncher.
Landen ran 67 miles this school year as of last Thursday afternoon.
Not that Landen is counting. Not really.  
“I like it because it’s good for your heart,” Lovitt said of why he enjoys Saffell Street’s “100 Mile Club,” a running club that began this fall.
“It keeps my legs strong.”
Fellow runner and fifth grader Jordan McHugh said he couldn’t even jog the whole way around Saffell when he first joined the running club.  
Now he’s pitter patting right behind Lovitt, clocking 55 miles as of last Thursday.
“I just love running and getting sweat on my clothes,” McHugh, who often runs and bikes with his dad, said.
Laura Quire, a fourth grader, said she even joined cross-country for the first time this year. Fellow fourth grader Skylar TIncher said she loves the 100 Mile Club because “it gets up and our energy. It gets us healthy.”
Saffell’s “100 Mile Club” is the result of a one-time $1,000 Active Schools grant that physical education teacher Doug Roher applied for and received at the beginning of the school year.  
Roher, who’s been teaching at Saffell for more than 20 years, said the grant — which he’ll be receiving in installments — gave him several options to choose from to promote physical activity, but he thought the 100 Mile Club would be something the kids would enjoy the most.
Running doesn’t cost the students or the school anything and is essentially non-competitive, Roher said, and it’s not a huge time commitment; the club meets to run for about 30 minutes several times a week, and students are not obligated to attend.
Last Thursday students got to jog, walk and run round and round through the hallways, stopping briefly at the gym to get a dot on the hand marking how many laps they’d done.
Students can then track how many of those laps translated to miles and record those miles on square pieces of paper by filling in or punching out circles.
The ultimate goal for young runners like Levitt: running 100 miles by the end of the school year.
Eight indoor laps through the hallways of Saffell equals about a mile. On warmer days students usually run outside around the school, Roher said.  
Roher said he allows students to count laps they run during recess toward their 100-mile goal.
He’s even had several students, about five or six, bring in race bibs from marathons to count toward the 100 miles.
The hardest part of the running club? Getting out of the way of the crowds of kids, students said.
Roher estimates that roughly 180 Saffell Street Elementary students have signed up with the club since it began. When he began the running club a few weeks into school, Roher said he anticipated about 75 kids signing up.
Adult monitors had to institute a rule that students could only run on the right side of the hallway to keep students from running into one another, fourth grader Tyler Parker said.
The $1,000 grant is partly being used to reward runners for hitting mileage goals, with prizes awarded at 25-, 75- and 100-mile distances, Roher said.
Ask Saffell Street students in the running club, however, and they’ll tell you they really don’t care about the prizes.
Tincher said she tries to get to running club as often as she can, and hopes her mom will be able to join her in the mornings when the club switches to running before school on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 7-7:30 a.m.
The best part of running club, Tincher said, for her was “probably just running and hanging out with my friends.”
Roher said he hopes to host a 5K run and walk at the elementary school in the spring, with students from the 100 Mile Club and their parents invited to participate. The 5K at Saffell is still in the planning stages, but Roher said the event will likely be part fundraiser to help raise money to continue the running club for next school year.
Roher said some parents choose to join their students during the afternoon or morning sessions, and he said he’d love to see more parents coming to Saffell to run, or just running at home with their kids.
“It’d be great to have (the 100 Mile Club) crossover, to have their parents take them to go on a walk or a run,” Roher said.