Each year, as they make their way down Taylor Street, Chicago Marathon runners pass through the heart of the John M. Smyth Elementary community. So to support these athletes, and to reinforce what they’ve learned about health and wellness, students from Smyth hosted their own “mini marathon” in 2013.
On Friday, October 11, students in grades K-8 ran either a 1K or 3K race to show their support for Marathon runners. This was an expansion on previous years activities, where students and their families made banners and cheered Marathon runners on with noisemakers and drums.
“The students enjoyed what we’d done in the past, but they all jumped at the chance to run their own version of the Marathon,” said Ron Whitmore, principal of Smyth. “Though whether that was out of enthusiasm for the sport or in hopes of seeing their principal fall out, I can’t say.”
Principal Whitmore ran the 1K race alongside primary grade students, viewing it as an opportunity to supplement what Smyth is working on in its IB Program.
“IB places a major emphasis on global citizenship and understanding who we are in relation to the rest of the world,” he said. “Prior to the Chicago Marathon, our students spent time learning about the countries, cultures and ethnicities of the runners, which helped broaden their horizons when it came to the race.”
The IB Program is also focused on health education, encouraging students to develop good habits for healthy eating and physical activity.
“We study health and wellness and the need to make good choices for our bodies,” said Marcie Byrd, IB Coordinator for Smyth. “Running in this mini marathon gave students a taste of what real runners have to do to build up their endurance.”
The recent interest in running is not unique to Smyth. Cross-country has become one of the most popular sports in CPS, with the number of student runners in the city championships more than doubling since 2005. Last year, the boys team from Jones College Prep won the state championship in this sport – the first cross-country title for CPS in nearly half a century.
“Running is one of the simplest and best things you can do for your health,” said CPS cross-country coach Krystian Weglarz, whose Gage Park team participated in the North Side vs. South Side High School Challenge on the morning of the Chicago Marathon. Sponsored by Nike, this annual event includes approximately 20 Chicago-area schools and gives student athletes the chance to race along the Marathon course.
“The students run the last 2.62 miles of the course, which converts the event to a typical cross-country run while symbolizing the Marathon distance,” said Coach Weglarz. ““We cross the finish line just as the Marathon runners are taking off.”
According to Weglarz, this race, and cross-country in general, is of enormous benefit to CPS students.
“Being part of a cross-country team builds student confidence, teaches discipline, and gives kids the foundation for a lifestyle of good physical health,” he said. “And a lot of the skills they learn aren’t just about running. They learn what it means to have perseverance, and how gutting things out and learning to overcome obstacles will help make you successful in life.”