When Audrey Gillette came up with the idea to encourage elementary school students to run a few laps around the schoolyard on Fridays before school, she thought a handful of boys and girls would show up.

"On our first Friday, even though it was cold and drizzly, we had 36 students running laps," said Gillette, who is a parent at Walnut Grove Elementary School in Pleasanton.

As word has spread throughout the school, the club has grown to 95 students and is expected to grow further. So far, the kids have run a combined 299 miles. All grade levels at the school are represented.

In fact, the club has 10 kindergartners, including twins Jake and Josh, who are nicknamed the Twinadoes because, according to their father, Jeff Durbin, they have been a "force of nature" since before they could walk.

"The run club gives our boys a goal to run as many laps as they can each week," said Durbin. "Our family supports health and fitness and any activities that motivate our children to get out and move."

Here's how it works: each Friday morning, students arrive 30 minutes before the bell rings for 10 minutes of stretching and 20 minutes of running. With every lap, students are handed a Popsicle stick that is then turned in so the laps and miles can be tracked. Participating students receive chains to wear around their necks, and once a runner earns enough laps to equal a mile, he receives a small charm in the shape of a shoe to put on his chain. This is followed by number charms at 5 miles, 10 miles and so on representing the miles achieved.


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When asked what he likes about the run club, second-grader Jack Hopkins said, "I like that you can run with friends and earn the necklace charms for how far you go."

Jack's sister, Kate, a kindergartner, added, "I like the prizes. I like to run."

Though the only miles tallied are those of students, teachers are also getting in on the school's fitness craze, including Linda Bury and Debbie Sweeney. Of course, the school's principal, Jon Vranesh, has promoted the club in his newsletter and joined his teachers and students in running laps.

The run club will continue into June when school ends. Just how many miles the school kids will end up running is anyone's guess, but thanks to involved parents such as Gillette, every mile builds a healthy mind and body for youngsters.

If this column has put you in the mood to go for a run, now is the time to sign up for Pleasanton Partnerships in Education "Run for Education" 5K and half-marathon taking place April 14. Presented by ClubSport, the run has been organized so that every dollar of the entry fees and funds raised will be donated to Pleasanton schools.

If you're not a runner, volunteers are also needed to help with the race. To sign up or for more information, visit www.ppierun.com.

Contact Jim Ott at jimott@sbcglobal.net.

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