Start ‘Em Young! The Paxson Elementary School Running Club

By EVA DUNN-FROEBIG

When my son started kindergarten at Paxson Elementary, one of the things I was most excited for him to be part of was the Paxson Running Club.

Paxson has won the Riverbank Run School Challenge for the past 13 years. They get more kids than any other elementary school (approximately 125 kids) to run in the Riverbank Run at the end of April each year—and it’s largely because of Glenn Moffatt, their PE teacher.

The Paxson Running Club meets for a half hour before school starts for about eight weeks, twice a week, leading up to the Riverbank Run. Getting to school early was a stretch for Milo and me because Milo is a late sleeper and we’re normally rushing out the door to get to school on time. But soon we were getting up earlier and Milo was excited for running club days.

We’d meet in the gym and the younger kids would run laps indoors while the older kids ran outside around the school. We escorted the younger ones once or twice a morning so they could do a lap around the school with the older kids and even led them on a run to Bonner Park a couple of blocks away. On any given day there would be between 40 and 80 kids at Paxson Running Club.

Eva and Glenn hand out participation certificates to the Paxon Elementary kids' running club.

Eva and Glenn hand out participation certificates to the Paxon Elementary kids' runningclub.

Mr. Moffatt made running fun by organizing relay races, playing loud music in the gym, and passing out pedometers so the kids could track their miles. The kids’ eyes lit up when their pedometers read over one mile. The younger ones begged to run outside and when they did they returned to the gym with their cheeks flushed, out of breath, but happy to be challenging themselves.

The older kids kept track of their miles each morning and when they reached 6.2 miles they got their names on the wall as part of the “Galloway Club,” named after Olympian Jeff Galloway who ran the 10K and visited their school this winter. Every child got a certificate from Glenn on the last day of Running Club.

Glenn says he started Paxson’s Running Club on a whim. “[I] just wanted to give kids extra time for fitness since they get so little PE time,” he says. “Kids want to move.”

“They pick up extra activity time and improve their fitness,” Glenn continues. “They begin to develop a healthy habit. They get to be a part of something that only requires a pair of gym shoes. Some go on to participate in track and cross-country, two no-cut sports.”

The kids also get to experience what it’s like to work hard to train for something and to complete their goals.

Eva's son, Milo, and two of his friends proudly show off their Missoula River Bank Run ribbons.

Eva's son, Milo, and two of his friends proudly show off their Missoula River Bank Runribbons.

As I stood at the starting line of the Riverbank One Mile Run with Milo on April 28, I looked around in the crowd of hundreds of kids and saw smiling and familiar faces from Paxson Running Club.

Milo had done this race a couple of times before, but he had never trained for it and he had never experienced what it’s like to train with a community of friends for eight weeks. As we ran, we saw friends and felt encouragement all the way to the finish line.

Finishing a race and getting rewarded with a T-shirt, healthy snacks, and a finisher ribbon can make an impression on a child that will likely last their lifetime. They experience the satisfaction of working hard to complete their goals.

Whether the kids who participated in Paxson Running Club and the Riverbank Run continue running throughout their childhood and beyond doesn’t matter. I hope they will continue to work hard with the support of mentors and peers to accomplish their goals whether they are athletic, academic or personal.

Many of Missoula’s elementary schools have running clubs organized by teachers or parents. Contact your school administrators to find out more.

Do you want to start a running club? Find out more about running clubs for youth through the Road Runners Club of America’s Kids Run the Nation program.

Missoula has so many youth running opportunities. My next blog will be about Missoula Youth Track.

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Planning to run the 2012 Missoula Marathon? Check out Eva’s post about the marathon training program.

Stay in the loop with Missoula’s running community! Check out the Run/Walk It archives for more posts from Eva and other Missoula runners and walkers.

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Eva Dunn-Froebig is the executive director of Run Wild Missoula and has been running since the seventh grade. She moved to Missoula 12 years ago from upstate New York to attend the University of Montana’s Journalism School graduate program. Eva never dreamed that she would have a running-related job and feels lucky to be a participant in Missoula’s vibrant running community.