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Holladay Journal

Annual 5k is back at Churchill Jr. High, promoting exercise and resilience

May 29, 2022 01:32PM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

At Churchill Jr. High they are off to the races again! The annual Fun Run 5k, which was put on hold for the last two years due to the pandemic, was held April 29. It came at the end of Charger Week, a week-long focus on health and resilience.

“It was a big hit, a literal breath of fresh air, and very fun. The focus was to encourage kids to find healthy ways to cope with stress, like getting out into nature and exercising,” said PTSA President Lorraine Larson.

The fun run was started by Deb Wagner, who taught PE at Churchill for 42 years and retired in January 2020. In past years it was held in the fall and called the Halloween Hustle, with kids wearing costumes and neighbors cheering them on.

“The 5k Wellness Fun Run is one of the school’s biggest traditions. It’s designed to promote mental wellness by teaching students proactive ways to stay healthy and drug free. Students and staff can wear superhero costumes and everyone participates,” said Churchill Principal Trent Hendricks.

 When race day came, it was cold and rainy, but it wasn’t enough to keep the students from finishing. Appropriate to the superhero theme, the course wound through streets named for figures in Greek mythology—Artemis, Diana, Achilles and Hermes.

Students who dressed in capes, like seventh-grader Jane, had a bit of an advantage.  

“I’m just here so I can wear a cape!” Jane said. Her cape conveniently doubled as a warm blanket.

Current students were excited to finally join in the tradition. “We haven’t had the race for a couple of years, and everyone has to participate in it unless they are injured. There are prizes you can win, but it’s really just for fun,” said seventh-grader Amelia.

Just before 10 a.m. all students were excused from class and lined up in the west parking lot near the gates. Unified Police Department were there to get the race started and keep the students safe in busy areas like Wasatch Drive.

Larson, who planned the event with parent Lisa Doyle, said that it was a success, but they also learned a lot about what to do next time.

“We’re not professional race planners. The school hasn’t done this for two years and Ms. Wagner retired, so all the people who had been in charge in the past were gone,” Larson said.

Next time, Larson and Doyle will let the kids know the course ahead of time, set up water stations, get more UPD officers to help, and have a first aid station and a medical responder on a bike.  

Larson will also mark the course better. She learned that lesson the hard way from her son Craig who is in eighth grade.  

“Craig is a sprinter, he’s really fast, and he wanted to win a prize. He was with a group that was pretty close to the front, but they missed a course marking. They ended up taking a longer route before they got back on course,” Larson said.

Craig and his friends were good sports about it, but at the celebratory lunch he pointed out to his mom that according to his watch he had literally gone the extra mile.  

“It was OK. It was a good teaching moment that life isn’t always fair. Now those kids have bragging rights that they ran a longer course. And even though they didn’t finish in time to win, we put together some prize bags for the ‘extra-milers,’” Larson said.

Doyle also helped plan the race. She had some insider knowledge—she attended Churchill Jr. High as a student and remembers Wagner inspiring all the students to take part in the tradition.

“One of the most important aspects of the fun run is that everyone in the school participates, whether or not they consider themselves an ‘athlete’.

“Deb Wagner was an amazing, inspirational superwoman! She said, ‘You can do this! You can run a 5k!’ Even if it wasn’t your thing,” Doyle recalled.

Doyle’s son Cody is an athlete, but doesn’t think of himself as a runner. Like many students, he did a combination of walking and running.

“He had a sense of pride that he finished it. Adults train for 5k races. He got to say, ‘I ran a 5k today,’” Doyle said.

Doyle said Hendricks has a great attitude and, like Wagner, he inspires the students.

“Yes, running in the rain and in the hot sun are hard, but you can do hard things. You are resilient and it’s good for you. It’s OK to be challenged. That’s the message Mr. Hendricks wanted to get across. This is a healthy way to cope with stress,” Doyle said.

Doyle and Larson are already thinking about things they want to incorporate into next year’s fun run.

“I think we’re going to move it back to Halloween time. There’s a cool vibe with the Halloween costumes, and it’s less busy than the spring.

“We also want to let the neighborhood know when it’s happening,” Doyle said. “In the past, and the way I remember it, people would come out of their houses and line the streets during the race. They would cheer on the students. It was a party, a community atmosphere. I’d like to see that happen again.”