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KidsMarathon: Miles of Smiles

POSTED June 10, 2012
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                               KidsMarathon: Miles of smiles

            LITCHFIELD – “A little drizzle will not dampen our spirits.”

            The resonant voice of the Litchfield Hills Road Race, Brent `Hawk’ Hawkins’ has always had a way with the words but none have ever been more accurate than his parting pronouncement at the Plumb Hill Complex Saturday morning.

            On a glorious day, despite some gray, occasionally drippy conditions huge smiles ruled as 14 schools and an estimated 900 young people completed the final mile of a 26.2 mile journey, the distance of a regular marathon that started at their respective schools back in April.

            The event, part of the Litchfield Hills Road Race weekend festivities, was the culmination of Kids Marathon, a school-based fitness and nutrition program started by former New York City Marathon champion and four-time Olympic marathoner, Rod Dixon of New Zealand.

            Throughout the program, students trained weekly building up a total of 25 personal miles, setting the stage for Saturday’s festivities. As the student marched around the Plumb Hills track, each school with an American flag, and `Chariots of Fire’ playing in the background, it was hard to tell who was smiling more, Dixon or the beneficiaries of what he has created.

            “This is a big difference from the 27 students we had five years ago isn’t it,” said a beaming Dixon. “The first 5,000 is the hardest. In Los Angeles we have 15,000 in the program and the mayor said why not 25,000? When we get to those numbers we can look for cooperate sponsorship and it will cost the kids less money.”

            But as the program continues to gain momentum and grow, the impact is clearly being felt in the Northwest Connecticut community and across the U.S. Rick and Lisa Campanelli of Torrington were there to watch their nine-year old son Tyler who attends East School compete and lauded the benefits of the program.

            “Tyler is really into it,” said Lisa. “He’s really enjoying it. Every morning before school they run and they get exercise. A goal is being reached today.”

            Also on hand was a fan of the program with her own fans,  reality television star Kate Gosselin with her 8-year-old sextuplets and 12-year old twins. Fresh off of running a half-marathon in San Diego, Gosselin met Dixon last September at Las Vegas’ Rock `n Roll Marathon and was given a training regimen by Dixon, who invited her to Litchfield.

            Gosselin did all the warm-ups with her clan and ran the mile urging her brood on.

            “They have been having a great time running at school and I’m an avid runner so we’re excited to join Rod’s program,” said Gosselin. “I’m a firm believer in health and fitness. I’d love to see the program expand in school’s everywhere. The final mile is a perfect setup for kids to start their career being fit.”

            With a throng of proud parents looking on, the students formed a circle around the infield of the track and did their pre-run exercises including a healthy set of jumping jacks.  Then they took to the track with their schools marching back and forth before the final jaunt.

            After Hawkins did his spiel, Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul took the podium and thanked Dixon and KidsMarathon Foundation Chairman Bill Burgess before presenting Dixon with an official proclamation of thanks.

            The students than took off on their final run as the parents and fans urged them on with healthy cheering and enough cameras to make Kodak smile. Some saved their best stretch run for last at they bolted to the finish line.

            Medals awaited at the end as Queen’s `We are the Champions’ blared over the loudspeaker. It was all fine with 11-year old Litchfield Intermediate School fifth-grader Miles Chapman.

            “We ran Monday and Wednesdays the amount our mentor told us to,” said Chapman. It was usually one to four laps. Then we would play a game like Capture the Flag and to in. It was kind of easy, but it was fun.”

            The whole day was fun. All you had to do was look at the sea of faces. The clouds threatened rain, the smiles provided sun. It was a glorious day.

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