Annual Fun Run returns to North Ponds Park this week

More than 600 Webster elementary school students descended on North Ponds Park on Friday Sept. 28 to participate in the district’s 53rd annual Fun Run.

The event brings fourth graders from all seven of the Webster Central School District’s elementary schools together for a morning of challenge, camaraderie, school pride — and exercise, of course.

The goal for each student who participates is to run, jog or walk the one-mile path around the perimeter of North Ponds Park. That’s not as easy as it might sound, because it’s not entirely a flat course. There are a few hills which make it rather challenging. But the fourth graders will be accompanied by a number of varsity athletes from Webster Schroeder and Webster Thomas high schools, who will encourage the young runners every step of the way. Every single one of them will cross the finish line, with a huge feeling of accomplishment and an even bigger grin.

The Fun Run has changed a lot since it was created in 1965. The first one was held at Dewitt Elementary School. Sixty boys participated, ten from each of the district’s six elementary schools. As the years passed and the race grew, 60 girls were invited, and later the fun run component was added, encouraging all elementary students to get involved.

The annual Fun Run is always a highly anticipated event for the schools’ fourth graders. The district works closely with Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket Racing, who volunteer their time and resources to give the students an authentic racing experience, including racing bibs and a real finish line. The race results are also posted so students can see how they compared to their classmates.

Because of its road-race feel, many students naturally see the Fun Run as a competition between friends or schools. But it’s not so much a race as it is a chance for the kids to get away from school, have a little fun, build some self-confidence, and get some exercise while they’re doing it.

“It’s a celebration of fitness and movement,” said Plank North Elementary School physical education teacher Kevin Sayers. “Every kid should be able to move a mile, whether they sprint, run, jog or walk.”

And while they’re at it, they get to experience and practice several of the essential skills their schools stress every day, like perseverance and resilience.

In a video ( created by WCSD Public Relations Coordinator Krista Grose on the occasion of the Fun Run’s 50th anniversary three years ago, Superintendent Carmen Gumina pointed out one of the most important reasons the Fun Run has remained part of the curriculum for so many years.

“We want to make sure that all of our students know that no matter which building they come from no matter which high school or middle school or which of the seven elementary schools that we’re still one amazing community,” he said. “We are one family, we are One Webster.”

And maybe — just maybe — the Fun Run will spark a lifelong passion for fitness in these young athletes.