Running Insight 10.1.21

Page 30

Racing 2021

Kids Keep Running The national Healthy Kids Running Series found a way to survive and thrive during the pandemic.


ven during a pandemic – maybe especially during a pandemic – kids need to run. Faced with lockdowns, virtual learning, cancelled sports and after-school activities and the overall stress of living in a pandemic world, kids – and their parents – more than ever needed a way to stay active. Enter the Healthy Kids Running Series (HKRS), a national series of communityorganized races for children from as young as two-years old up to middle school age. The events are run by its Community Coordinators, the women and men who organize the programs in their local communities. They are first responsible for finding the facility to host the races – which range from a 50-yard dash for the littlest runners up to a mile for the middle schoolers, some Series even host a Challenger Division for those that need a little extra support – and then marketing the Series and securing volunteers to help execute the five-week series in the fall and spring. All registrations go through the national HKRS website, which are used to help offset expenses. At the end of the season Coordinators receive half of the net profit and HKRS headquarters receives the other half to invest back in the program in the form of IT solutions, travel to map out courses, medals, trophies, insurance, runner shirts, rental fees and the rest. The Community Coordinators can grow their Series as big as their facility will allow — most locations can handle 300-400 young runners because races are broken out by distance and gender. Due to the pandemic HKRS has implemented race day guidelines to help ensure the safety of the runners on-site, especially for the larger Series. All of this effort is directed at the young 30

Kids of all ages just want to run and HKRS is giving them the opportunity to do just that every weekend.

runners and it all adds up to Healthy Kids Running Series laying claim as the largest co-ed youth running program in the country The Virtual Response Like all race events, HKRS faced a host of COVID-19 challenges, not the least of which was organizing the races themselves and getting local approval to use fields and facilities. “HKRS had to become creative throughout the pandemic,” understates Tamara Conan, national director of HKRS. “We wanted to offer families a way to continue to be active, not just physically but mentally, so we had a mix of in-person and virtual events running fall of 2020.” The one good thing that came out of the pandemic is its Virtual World Race run out of its office so they can spread its mission to communities that don’t have programming available. It also provides families that are not comfortable with racing the

opportunity to still participate in HKRS programming. HKRS’ program manager Corrine Logeman, who runs this race, created an encouraging and inspiring virtual community for these families. Like many other initiatives, the challenges of the pandemic accelerated HKRS ideas and programs that would have taken years to develop otherwise. “Before the pandemic, we had joked in the office about a virtual HKRS race and never in a million years did we dream that it would be what every child would be doing in our program to stay healthy and active during the pandemic,” Conan recalls. The first step of that virtual process was creating a new guide to train Community Coordinators on running a virtual Series. Some of this contained training on utilizing social media to engage with the families throughout this season by video and social media branded images. Next, HKRS created a “How To” for

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