This past Saturday Livonia parkrun was pleased to welcome the “Run Crew” running club from Beechview Elementary School in Farmington, MI. An enthusiastic 12 boys and girls that had been in training since September to do their first 5K showed up ready and raring to go. Prior to Saturday the core team was able to do some advance planning with their coach, Steve Salhaney, which was very helpful. Coach Steve is not a teacher at the school, just an involved parent, who, like parkrun, sees the value in fresh air, exercise, and providing a safe venue for kids to learn about running, setting a goal, and achieving that goal.
The Beechview kids were 4th and 5th graders, and with most being under 11, Coach Steve was conscientious enough to encourage several of his running friends to be running partners with the kids on parkrun day, so every kid had someone to run (or walk) with them, and to encourage them the entire way around Bicentennial Park. Most of these adult running partners had never heard of parkrun, but they loved their experience and several promised to return. Some of the Beechview parents volunteered to marshal. Coach Steve even recruited his wife and daughter to host a water stop midway through our semi-out and back course, so all the kids (plus our regular parkrunners) got a chance to rehydrate two times during the run. This was our first ever Livonia parkrun water stop. Funny we had our first water stop in December instead of July, but the kids enjoyed it.
This influx of kids and running partners powered Livonia parkrun to the highest weekly parkrun attendance in the Americas, which we had not achieved since our parkrun USA 5th birthday celebration back in June. We had a near record 31 first timers and 22 volunteers among the 109 total participants. Course conditions were slightly soggy, but the weather was fantastic, with mid-40s temps and no wind.
In addition to Beechview, Livonia parkrun has hosted two other school groups in the recent past as well: we had Woodcreek Elementary come two weeks prior for their annual visit, and we also had Isbister Elementary come back in May without telling us they were coming. They had 26 kids show up out of the blue. That day was a significant challenge and fairly stressful for the few regular volunteers on hand. Looking back on it after the event, we need not have gotten stressed out at all. Most kids haven’t a care in the world about their place, their time, if they ran the whole course, etc. They just wanted to have fun and hang out with their friends.
We have learned parkrun is a perfect fit for school groups looking to do a 5K as part of their run club. With commercial groups charging over $100 for 8 to 10 weeks of training and then a 5K, parkrun can help individual schools put on their own free or greatly reduced costs programs that culminate in a parkrun. And unlike programs that end after that first 5K, parkrun will continue to be there for the kids every Saturday, for free, to help keep up their newfound exercise habit and hopefully their love of running and their community.
Tim Gallagher, A326234
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