Healthy Kids Running Series turns virtual in wake of COVID-19

PHOTO COURTESY OF HEALTHY KIDS RUNNING SERIES EAST BRUNSWICK
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PHOTO COURTESY OF HEALTHY KIDS RUNNING SERIES EAST BRUNSWICK

Physical activity brought friends Maricar Korff and Melissa Ray together.

And when they both became first time mothers – girls four months apart from each other – a new physical adventure began in which their children now participate.

The two moms, who are Edison residents, are in their fifth season organizing Healthy Kids Running Series (HKRS) in East Brunswick.

HKRS is a national, community-based non-profit that provides a fun, inclusive five-week running series for children ages 2-14, designed for children to get active, feel accomplished and lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle.

Ray said the program allows folks to start up a race series in their own town. They decided to hold the race in East Brunswick where Korff is a chemistry teacher at East Brunswick High School. Ray said they receive a lot of help from students who volunteer their time during the races.

Korff said she is retired from running marathons as of now, but wanted a way to keep running still a part of her life.

“HKRS is my way of giving back to the community and influencing young people to run,” she said. “I knew that I could only do this with the help of organized and focused friends. That’s when I reached out to Melissa.”

Jeff Long, founder and president of Pattison Sports Group, Thornton, Pennsylvania, created Healthy Kids Running Series in an effort to combat increasing rates of childhood obesity in America and to motivate children to lead a healthy and active lifestyle through a positive introduction to the world of running, according to its website.

In East Brunswick, HKRS, which races twice a year in the spring and fall, is ready to kick off its fifth season on April 19. Ray said they have approximately 150-200 racers per season.

The children race for five Sundays, usually at East Brunswick High School each season; however, with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the HKRS series is offering a five-week virtual race series to further help children and their families.

Passive physical activity such as running, biking and jogging is allowed during the state’s Stay at Home order issued on March 21 by the governor in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

Racers range from age 2 through eighth grade. Depending on age and grade, the distance they run varies from 50 yards for the youngest runners to a mile for the older ones.

“As families navigate through this new norm of social distancing, we want to encourage kids to lead an active healthy lifestyle,” Ray said. “Whether it’s running in their yard or around the block, we want kids to continue to be active while avoiding potential contact with the COVID-19. Our races are always kid focused with the ultimate goal of teaching children how to be active and healthy while creating meaningful relationships within our community. This is a unique opportunity to be connected and engaged with participants while separate.”

Long said “when new parameters were put in place limiting interaction for our participants, and with more families relying on technology, we felt it was in our best interest to keep our kids engaged and offer this virtual series.

“Through our virtual series, we teach kids effort, perseverance, persistence, sportsmanship, independence and grit,” he said. “We will show kids and their parents how to be active while staying at home.”

HKRS is a five-week program beginning on April 19 with age-appropriate race distances. Runners compete each week on a course of their choosing, and at the end of the series, when appropriate, participants will be invited to a Medal and T-Shirt Pickup event.

Registration is $35 for the virtual five-week series. HKRS impacts more than 60,000 youth runners in 300-plus communities across the United States.

For more information, visit www.HealthyKidsRunningSeries.org.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.