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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Little legs tackling a marathon; one mile at a time

Jodi Summit
Posted 10/6/19

TOWER- For the third year in a row, a large group of Tower-Soudan Elementary students have competed in the Ely Marathon kids running event.

“We do our runs first thing in the morning, during …

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Little legs tackling a marathon; one mile at a time


TOWER- For the third year in a row, a large group of Tower-Soudan Elementary students have competed in the Ely Marathon kids running event.

“We do our runs first thing in the morning, during snack time, or right before lunch,” said first-grade teacher Jo Holen, who has spearheaded the effort each year. Holen, herself a marathon runner, enjoys getting the students outdoors, as well as watching them gain confidence and stamina as they practice.

“It’s a big deal to get the 25 miles recorded,” she said. Students track their miles on a special sheet they keep inside their locker, coloring in a spot for each mile they have run. They also keep a journal, recording their times and other data.

The school staff works on making the event something to look forward to. The night before the race, the participants take part in a spaghetti feed at the school. After the race, the students are all recognized by their classmates, getting to run down the school’s main corridor lined by all the other students, who cheer them on.

The runners were still pretty excited a few days after the race. And while they all had a wonderful time on the race day itself, they also had a lot to say about all the practice miles put in beforehand.

“You get exercise and you get to have fun,” said sixth-grader Rogelio Noyes. Noyes said he also likes to run with his father, Rolando, who is also a runner, and their dog.

“Running keeps us healthy,” said Thomas Aldrich.

“We get fresh air and time outside while still at school,” said sixth-grader Elsie Larson.

Nico Lenci, showing off his competitive spirit, said his favorite part of running is “that feeling you get when you cross the finish line.”

Nico put his feelings into action, on race day, when his shoe fell off about a block from the finish line. He ran back, picked up his shoe, and then sprinted to the finish, shoe in hand!

Rogelio also faced a challenge on race day. Shortly into the run he realized he had a rock in his shoe, which added some seconds to his time, but didn’t cut into his resolve to finish the race.

Sixth-graders Rena Buckanaga and Jada Medicine both said running helped them gain confidence. Sixth-grader Elsie Larson said having self-esteem was important to keep yourself going when running got hard. Rena Buckanaga not only built up her self-confidence, but also built up some competitive spirit, sprinting as fast as she could once she could see the finish line.

Lae’la James, a new student at TS, still got to participate. She said she was one of the fastest runners in the class at her old school and is excited about the opportunity to run at school.

Holen said all of the runners worked hard. And one of the goals this last year was working on pacing, and having the students work on improving their times.

“At first, some of the kids just wanted the chance to get outside,” she said. “This year they had to show improvements when we did timed runs.”

“The kids could see how fast they were getting,” she said. Holen said the students run three different routes on their mile runs, some mostly flat, but some with hills.

“It was hard to get all the miles in last spring,” Holen said, because of the wet and cold spring.

Starting in the spring, students in grades two through six can choose to run, one mile at a time, banking their miles until they reach the magic number of 25. Most students were able to record the additional miles they needed over the summer, or during the first couple of weeks at school.

Fourth-grader Destiny Koivisto-Boshey, who uses a wheelchair, was also part of the training and race day. With help from her aides, and other students who pushed her along, she put in her 25 miles, and then finished up on race day, with a huge smile on her face, along with her friends. Her mom said she loved the opportunity to be outdoors, and especially loved all the commotion of race day, from the start to the finish line.

On the day of the Ely Marathon, these children race along the final 1.2 miles of the official route, ending at the marathon finish line in Whiteside Park, which is buzzing with all the marathon-day excitement.

At the finish line, they get a medal, shirt, and the finishers’ bling bag, along with a root beer float, courtesy of the Dorothy Molter Museum, which is the official sponsor of the children’s race.

Fourth-grader Eva Larson was impressed with the fact that they got the same kind of race bib, with the built-in timing chip, as the adult racers. At the finish line, kids got a printout of their time, place, and per mile pace. Their times are also recorded online on the Ely Marathon website.

While the students all seemed to enjoy running, they were split on the idea of doing the marathon with a canoe on their shoulders.

Thomas Aldrich couldn’t believe that someone could race that far with a canoe.

Nico Lenci said that if he ever decided to run a whole marathon, he would bring his camping supplies with him, so he could stop and sleep and eat along the way.

Holen is working on spreading the word on the program, and she is hoping to get other ISD 2142 schools involved. NER science teacher Ryan Lindsay put together a video, available on the Ely Marathon facebook page, featuring the children’s race. Holen and Lindsay also did a presentation at the August district-wide teacher training.

This year 17 Tower-Soudan students were among the 64 finishers of the race, including first-place winner Greyson Reichensperger, now a seventh-grader at Northeast Range and on the cross-country team. Students who were unable to attend the race on Sept. 21, but had completed their miles, also received t-shirts and medals. The students’ entry fees for the race were paid by the Tower-Soudan Athletic Association.


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