Community supports McMillan’s Fit Fun Run
Jun 25, 2018 05:11PM ● Published by Julie Slama
Students were off and running at McMillan’s 23rd annual Fit Fun Run. (Ann Saltzman/McMillan Elementary)
By Julie Slama | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ahead of the crowd of elementary school runners, a tall red-headed teenager took a few strides and was ahead of the pack. It was Joseph Longhurst’s 10th time running McMillan Elementary’s Fit Fun Run, the last three as the pace-setter.
“It’s really cool to know that all these little kids are looking at me as a leader and to know that they will follow me,” he said. “I return because I love running and the Fit Fun Run.”
Since its beginning 23 years ago, teacher and Fit Fun Run organizer Kathy Reynolds has had students write a goal to run one, two or three miles and train for the run.
Joseph, who now is a high school junior and had Reynolds as his first-grade teacher, ran three miles every time as an elementary student. He now is a high school cross country and track athlete.
“She was one of my favorite teachers and had a great influence on my running career. She showed me how running could be fun,” he said, adding that his two friends, Michael Durrant and Cooper Henricksen, were also encouraged to run. “I mostly did it just for fun. In the later years of elementary, I did end up running with and racing my friends, but it was never really a competition — just fun.”
That was the case with fifth-grade cousins Ethan and Boston Hampton.
“We compete against each other and try to push and challenge ourselves to do our personal best,” Ethan said.
That included training for it as Boston would run one mile each night leading up to the run, sprinting at the end. He’s also ran 5Ks in the past, and both boys have played for Murray Max soccer club.
Not only do the boys enjoy running, but Boston said it helps him with anxiety.
“It clears my mind, gives me a goal and allows me to focus on school work so I can do my best,” he said.
That’s something that their teacher, Ann Saltzman, recalls students saying — even back to the days when she had Joseph in class.
Joseph wasn’t the only lead runner. Another of Reynold’s former students, Tyler Howland, has led the pack for about 20 years, Reynolds said.
“He’s amazing,” she said. “He’s run Boston (marathon) and does the Iron Man in Hawaii. He was here and pumped all our students up at the assembly beforehand and encouraged them to get and stay in shape. It’s great that students are able to look up to former students and see where running has taken them.”
In past years, Reynolds, herself an accomplished marathoner, would run right alongside her students. With a recent illness, she instead took to the sidelines and cheered the 500 McMillan students on, each wearing a shirt designed by sixth-graders Alyssa Harlin and Max Staley.
“The Fit Fun Run is a huge thing here,” Reynolds said. “It started with six boys in my class who wanted to run, and one of the boys’ mother was a big runner. She ended up taking them to a race in the Wasatch Front, and I realized we could do a schoolwide run here. And it’s grown and grown to 2,000 as parents and community members join in.”
Through the years, she points out she’s had numerous parent volunteers helping as well as Tammy Jenkins for 20 years and recently, her daughter, Angie Thompson.
“My mother talks to the students about setting a goal and setting a good pace, and not starting fast and burning out,” Thompson said. “This really is a cool thing. All the students talk about it and organize themselves to run with their friends.”
Reynolds is quick to point out that the name fits the run.
“It’s designed just for its name — fit and fun run. It’s not as a fundraiser,” she said, although she was quick to thank several local sponsors who helped provide food to T-shirts as well as the Murray Police, who escorted the runners on the course to and from Friendship Park.
Fifth-grader Bonnie Hendricksen was one of the students who completed the 2-mile run for its namesake — fun.
“I like the feel of running and getting faster,” she said. “I like the wind in my face as I run. And I like the Creamie at the end.”
For Joseph, the Fit Fun Run holds fun memories and hopes it will for current McMillan students.
“The school did a really good job of making the Fit Fun Run something that elementary kids could look forward to and have fun while doing it,” he said.