That’s because of a new health and fitness program at the school called the Running Rams in which some 35 students of varying ages, and their supportive parents, are teaming with school administrators to run the equivalent of a 26.2-mile marathon.
To benefit from the consistency of regular exercise — in this case, running — the kids and parents aren’t trying to run the full distance in one great stride. Instead, they are averaging about one to three miles a week. Most of the distance is coming at the beautiful Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway each Saturday. The final mile of their cumulative marathon will be run in April at the Covenant Kids Run at Neyland Stadium, the Knoxville home of Vol Nation.
These ambitious North Lee students, boys and girls, are learning the value of motion and they’re doing it with one or both parents whose encouragement — and physical presence — is critical to the initiative’s success. And when it comes to health and fitness, what’s good for the child is even better for the parents.
Program coordinator is Brian Gallaher who is partnering with Bradley County Schools Coordinated School Health director Andrea Lockerby to organize the campaign. Both have kids at North Lee who are among the Ram runners.
Gallaher and Lockerby approached North Lee Elementary Principal Nat Akiona who required no arm-twisting to bless the initiative. Like Gallaher and Akiona, Lockerby understands two key points about the Running Rams.
One, it is helping children to embrace physical exercise and fitness at a young age. Most nutritionists and fitness gurus agree the sooner children adopt healthy lifestyle habits, the better the chance they’ll hang onto them into adulthood.
Two, the fact that parents are getting involved increases the chance of the program’s success; and, it heightens public awareness whose word-of-mouth advertising might entice other schools, and various factions of the community, to get off the couch as well.
“One of the components is family community involvement,” Lockerby told Cleveland Daily Banner Staff Writer Joyanna Weber. “It’s been an awesome experience because many of the parents are running with the students.”
The kids freely admit the program was a little tough in the beginning as they built their endurance.
Fifth-grade student Clark Lockerby is one such student. “I’ve run before,” he told us, “but I’ve never really done anything like this.”
Another is fourth-grader Ashlynn Akiona who proudly declared, “I like running. It’s fun for me. Me and my mom are doing it together.”
Third-grader Wyatt Kier is a poster child for gradual improvement. He explained, “When you start running and you have to run a mile, it’s kind of hard to breathe because you are panting.” But it gets better and easier and then it becomes almost ... fun.
It’s the power of exercise.
It’s the benefits of a lifestyle of motion.
The Running Rams, which by the way is the school’s mascot, is not exclusive to North Lee Elementary. Any school can do it. Any group of students can get involved. Any teacher can start the ball rolling.
Lockerby and Gallaher are hopeful.
They see the Running Rams as being a modest, first step whose momentum — it is hoped — will build upon itself until virtually every school in our community is offering its own version of Ram power.
It is a worthwhile goal, one whose eventual attainment will be credited in years to come to 35 youngsters at North Lee who didn’t really understand their pioneering ways.
They were just having fun.