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RUN A MILE DAYS 2014 – BE A MILER resonates
from East to West

R U A Miler and BE A MILER ask similar questions. Young boys and girls took to the fields and tracks to run a mile and let it be known, they were “Milers”. Close to 20,000 students in elementary and middle schools from New Hampshire to Virginia to North Carolina to Washington to California hosted MILE DAYS Events in the May 2nd thru 12th timeframe.

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RUNNING THE MILE is the Campaign. The Call to run or participate has either asked or demanded that you “are” or “be” a miler. Whether a boy or girl knows it or not, we consider everyone a miler. How fast you cover that mile defines your preparation, motivation and fitness. The American Running Association just wants one thing: answer the call and do your best to run the mile and start a fitness regimen. That first mile can lead to a love of running and ultimately a healthier person.

Once a principal or lead PE teacher committed to the MILE DAYS event, classrooms and hallways in elementary and middle schools began the process of training their students. “BE A MILER” posters arrived and training plans were initiated during the winter and spring weeks leading up to the annual NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS in May. Since American Running began this grass roots program in 2007, schools and clubs across the country have taken the challenge to kick-start spring running programs. The call to “Be A Miler” or the question “Are You A Miler” was answered with a resounding “Yes!” at more schools and clubs in 2014.

The 2014 “RUN A MILE DAYS TOUR” hit the road starting in Northern Virginia with Mark Twain Middle School in Alexandria VA. ARA was fortunate to have several VIPs act as our Ambassadors at several stops during the 11 days of the 2014 MILE DAYS Tour. ARA’s Executive Director covered the East Coast and more specifically the Mid-Atlantic states plus Virginia. Dave’s first stop was the middle school in Alexandria, VA. Mark Twain Middle School has just over 900 7th and 8th graders. It is an ethnically diverse school with youth from over 30 countries. Each PE class ran a mile course that utilized a lap on the school’s crushed gravel track and an extended loop of the schools’ fields. Every mile finisher collected his or her Miler Certificate and “BE A MILER” tee.

The Midwest MILE DAYS’ Tour started in earnest with American Running’s Ambassador 3 time Olympian Craig Virgin. Craig is a legend in Illinois dating back to his record-setting high school days out of Lebanon IL. As ARA’s MILER Ambassador, Craig visited 4 schools over a 4 day period. He gave a rousing presentation at Shariel Espinoza’a Goodwin School in Cicero. He concluded his Illinois Miler Tour in the suburban Chicago area. All told, Craig Virgin assisted over 2000 students who hit the track or trail to run a mile. His takeaway: that kids today just need the opportunity to run and the encouragement of educators who believe in fitness for all shapes and sizes of students.

Our West Coast MILER DAYS Tours were highlighted by events in the state of Washington and California, not to mention Oregon. ARA was represented at our top SoCal Tour stop in Anaheim by Dexter Emoto. Dexter is a recovery room nurse and prolific marathon runner. He also is an accomplished photographer and visited Gauer Elementary in Anaheim as our California Ambassador the Mile. Gauer Elementary is a school comprised of over 85% Hispanic, Latino and other ethnically diverse students. Through the efforts of their fitness-crazed principal Debbie Schroeder, the call to run a mile is not taken lightly. When Dexter visited, he was met by an enthusiastic and motivated group of children. Running the Mile was both a challenge and an enriching experience.

The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to running. Eugene Oregon has reinforced itself as the Mecca of track and field with legendary Hayward Field host to many National and international track events. The trails and tracks in neighboring Washington have just a storied background in running. Perhaps the influence of running community has led to the Peninsula School District and Greater Gig Harbor – Tacoma area being our largest single hosted “RUN A MILE DAYS” event. Our host and champion is Dr Pat Hogan. We have touted his salesmanship of the RUN A MILE DAYS concept in previous years. Dr Pat has not stopped. For 2014, we added several more schools and now estimated the number of Mile Finishers during the May 2 – 12 period to be over 15,000 students. Pat would tell you that he is not the key but merely the guy who has infected the area with enthusiasm for the MILE in schools. His key person continues to be PE teacher Dave Rucci. Together, the two have convinced other schools to jump aboard. New to the event this year was a high school. In addition, neighboring school districts have joined the MILE DAYS and have gotten their communities to volunteer at the Mile events. Hedden Elementary in Edgewood Washington is one of those communities who worked with Pat Hogan to grow and prosper. This year, they brought in Ed Lychek, a hip leg amputee above the hip who won this year’s mobility impaired division of the Boston Marathon. Ed was all the motivation needed to get kids to run a mile on a drizzly day.

The MILE DAYS Tour wrapped up with some Mile events in new locales including New Hampshire and Alaska. The Alaska Mile Day s event took place in Skagway. ARA sent tees and certificates to the remote town making their community the furthest and most remote US “MILE DAYS” participant.

If you or your community is interested in hosting MILE DAYS events in 2015, please email Maria Kolanowski, [maria@americanrunning.org] and include your name, school or club, email address and daytime phone number. We are expanding the MILE DAYS timeframe to cover the first 2 weeks in May 2015.

High School Coaching Update: PENN RELAYS and National Outdoor Championships

Magical run continued for our distance girls quartet in the Distance Medley Relay (DMR) Several years from now, we will start to truly appreciate and marvel at the relay success our group of 5 girls (4 ran in each relay race) had over a 12 month timeframe. Starting in June 2013, the West Springfield HS (VA) girls Distance Medley Relay or “DMR” won a National Outdoor title, followed that up with an indoor title at Nationals in March 2014, won the prestigious Championship of America at the Penn Relays and then completed the relay championship run in June 2014 with a repeat Outdoor DMR title. Five girls have made up all 4 championship relays. The only leg of the relay that has fluctuated has been the 400m runner. The Opening 1200m, the 3rd leg at 800m and the anchor leg of 1600m were run by the same 3 girls. What made it possible besides hard work and commitment to the concept of racing a relay was our leader and nationally ranked distance runner Caroline Alcorta. The anchor in the DMR is the key leg. It can also be argued that the opening 1200 leg must position your team up front, so the 400m and 800m legs can either put you upfront or within striking position of the lead. The most impressive of the wins was the PENN RELAYS Championship DMR. West Springfield took the baton on anchor leg in 7th place, some 90 meters behind the leader. Alcorta kept her cool yet aggressively moved through the field to pull even on the leader at the 800m mark. She ended up running a 4:46 anchor split and won by 60m. The final meet in the girls DMR string of titles was at the recently completed New Balance Outdoor Nationals. The other top contending team’s anchor had beaten Caroline Alcorta at Footlocker Cross Country Nationals and in another national 2 mile race. At the Outdoor Nationals DMR Final, Alcorta took the baton even with Staples (CT) team and their anchor Hannah DiBalsi. The two girls ran shoulder-to-shoulder for 800m. On the 3rd of 4 laps, Alcorta started to pull away and grabbed a 20m lead with one lap remaining. She held on with an even –split 4:48 anchor leg in the 90 degree heat of Greensboro NC. As an assistant coach, I was just along for the ride. The head coach had the master plan and I focused on the mental game of confidence and focus. Teamwork prevailed where many teams get sidetracked by individuals’ own pursuits of medals and national rankings. Hoisting that PENN RELAYS “WHEEL” is something 4 girls and coaches will never forget.

Seen and Heard while Running

Mary Cain running as a Professional in the 2013
Portland (OR) Track Festival
Photo: Steve Klotz

Strength Training in High School Girls’ Distance Runners Maybe it took the success of 3 high school aged girls, one of whom turned “Pro” in the fall of her senior year of high school. Mary Cain is an immense talent in the middle distance. She is neither tiny nor thin. Her coach is the former World record holder in the marathon and Olympian Alberto Salazar. He is quite vocal about strength training, nutrition and periodicity in training in men and women. He first gained attention with the training and coaching of his protégé Galen Rupp. Coaching young high school-aged girls was not part of Salazar’s regime. He did coach Kara Goucher to success at the marathon distance, but not a high school girl. Cain has filled that void and also changed the image that young girls who aspire to be a fast runner. Strength and power are the new thin and skinny. For years, I witnessed podiums at regional, state and national level meets filled with ultra-thin young girls and women. As a Dad of a high school and now D1 collegiate distance runner, I cringed at the message being sent to coaches and athletes. Privately, many parents and coaches whispered about how long it would take for that young runner to break; i.e., become injured by a stress fracture or worse. We have all heard the heart-breaking stories of young talented women who keep striving to regain the speed they had as freshman or sophomores in high school, all before puberty and body changes occurred. They would fight the natural weight gain and cut back on a balanced diet. Most of these young women could not win this race of speed vs. body weight.

Sarah Baxter(left) powers her way to a NXN Win in 2012. Her 2013 3rd place finish was her only High School loss in Cross Country

That is why it is encouraging to see coaches and athletes embracing strength training and proper nutrition. The focus on a 40-30-30 diet (Carbs, fats and protein) and avoidance of sugars complements the strength training regimen. Girls are lifting weights, doing “Guy” Pushups, pull-ups and not shying away from any strength-gaining exercise.

Mary Cain is a role model in many ways she might not comprehend. Her upbeat personality goes hand-in-hand with her powerful running style. It is OK to be a bigger girl and be powerful. It’s also healthier.


Run Early in the Day, avoid the heat and enjoy Summer!
The Staff and Board of American Running

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