Initiated by Brian Gallaher, Ocoee Middle School teacher and North Lee parent, the Running Rams is a running club for all students grades K-5 at North Lee Elementary. My office, Bradley County Coordinated School Health, was eager to get involved with this club and promote physical activity among students and families. Having two sons at North Lee, I was excited to share my joy of running with them.
This year’s goal was to accumulate the first 25.2 miles of a marathon, culminating to the last mile of their 26.2 goal at the Covenant Health Fun Run in Knoxville on April 6. For the past few months students, along with many parents, met on Saturday mornings at the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway to mark miles toward their goal. Meeting at the big yellow chair, students and parents enjoyed 1-3 mile runs along our beautiful Greenway. Individually, students worked on their miles on their own toward their goal. Many of those miles were logged on the Greenway.
Watching this group on Saturday mornings was such a delight. Most of the parents chose to run with their children and take this journey together. The staggered lines of parent/child partners expanding a distance as far as you could see on the Greenway was enough to make me smile, and smile big. Whether the students were learning how to track distance on a smart phone or look for mileage trackers on the course, all were having fun spending time together.
Chris Doan, Physical Education teacher and parent at North Lee Elementary, explains, “As a parent and teacher at North Lee, it was encouraging to see kids participating in a healthy activity. Many parents came and ran on the Greenway with their children to get them ready for the big race and several ran on race day. I personally enjoyed the time I spent running with my first grader and was proud of her running for 26.2 miles in three months’ time.”
Nat Akiona, principal at North Lee Elementary, adds, “I am extremely appreciative of the leadership of Mr. Gallaher for the institution of this program. It is my intention to continue this program at North Lee and I sincerely hope that other schools will join us — for the sake of our children’s health, their parents’ health and the resulting family memories that can be made during this time together.”
The Greenway serves many purposes in our community and this year one of those purposes was to provide a space where school-aged children can learn the joy of running and competing against themselves. If you head out to the Greenway very early on Saturday mornings, you will most likely find a group of runners training for the next big event. It creates a social atmosphere that breeds fitness and lifelong health in our community.
The Greenway has inspired many to start this journey toward better health and I can’t thank enough those in our community who had the vision to develop such a community asset. My wish is to build on what North Lee has started and build a community tradition of active, healthy children and families.