Come rain or sub-freezing temperatures, the John Adams Elementary students run, from Labor Day to Thanksgiving and then from mid-March to May, starting before school and before some folks have rolled out of bed.
The school has existed for four years, and the voluntary club for three. The end of the 2012-13 school year later this month will mark three years of the running club for some of the fifth-graders who started out in the club as third-graders, such as Alex Depew.
Other city elementary schools with similar running clubs include Jackson, Johnson, Kennedy, Roosevelt and Washington.
Members among the 67 in the Adams club this school year include Jack Allen, John Rush and Laney Vogel in the third grade and Gracie Allen and Mackenzie Cummings in the fifth.
Fifth-grade triplets Vikram, Vandana and Karuna Nathan started in the club last year. Like all the students interviewed, the three 11-year-olds said they plan to continue running at Robinson Middle School in track, cross-country or both.
“Running is a good way to relieve stress and you feel relaxed after running so you’re ready to learn,” Vikram said.
“It’s a good way to stabilize your mind before school,” Karana said, while Vandana said running makes her “refreshed when you do all the other school activities.
One Friday this spring, it was a refreshing 21 degrees.
“I had 62 show up that day,” said Cathie Lineburg, the part-time physical education teacher at Adams and sponsor of the club.
The club’s last run this year was a special one at the Friday, May 10, field day, where the group ran at 8:45 a.m.
“I’ve always had it in the mornings because I feel it prepares you for learning,” Lineburg said
“I like it,” said Ellie Nash, 9 and in third grade, “because sometimes in the morning I’m all drowsy when I don’t have running.”
Lineburg said the runs allow students to “decompress and make that brain-body connection out there” on the trail.
“It keeps us healthy and it helps me learn more,” said fourth-grader Maycee Baker, 10, while Olivia Doran, 9 and in third grade, said it helps keep her in shape, something she plans to take through adulthood.
The runners are mostly third-, fourth- and fifth-graders with some second-graders, although second-graders are allowed only if their parents are present for the run.
“I just like the experience of running with other kids,” said fourth-grader Joseph Luppe, 10.
“It’s really awesome. It keeps me healthy,” said Neekon Nejad, 9 and in third grade. “I’m worried that I might get out of shape someday.”
Fourth-grader Ben Capel, 11, said his whole family likes to run and he plans to run in the summer.
Fifth-grader Kieran Boito, who joined this school year, said running had become his hobby. Frederick Tully, 11 and in fifth grade, joined in the middle of fourth grade after he transferred to the school.
“Running is just fun. You can talk to your friends and it’s fun coming in first,” Frederick said, adding that he likes to better his own times.
Lineburg said she hopes to instill a love for running and athletics in the students through the noncompetitive running club, which doesn’t give out medals or ribbons for place finishes.
But whether participants go on to participate in middle school or high school sports or just run for fitness and fun, Lineburg said studies and her own observations have shown such physical activity helps learning, academic achievement and behavior.
“They are there. They are energetic. They are ready to go,” Lineburg said. “I want them to fall in love with running.”
She also said it allows the students to “be part of something.”
The runs this school year occurred in the fall and spring terms from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m. each Thursday and Friday, but Lineburg said she hopes she can expand the program to more days and/or longer fall and spring terms if her related arts teaching position goes from part-time to full-time status next school year. Her times there as a part-time teacher are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
If her position becomes full time, she said the running program likely will expand to more days per week.
The proposed 2013-14 city school budget calls for all the related arts teaching positions to go full time, but it is not yet finalized by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Lineburg said the school, at 320 students, warrants full-time related arts teachers.
She said art, music, band and PE/athletics can keep a lot of children motivated and in school.
An average of seven volunteer parents come to each running session to help supervise and encourage the children.
She said the program fits in with cross-curricular learning and can help combat obesity issues prevalent in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
“Your health is your wealth,” Lineburg said. “If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to want to pick up a book and read or go out and earn a living.”
Lineburg has taught health and physical education for six years. Her husband, Mark Lineburg, is superintendent of Bristol, Va., city schools.