The Running Club ...

Sixth grader Gustavo Hirschfield concentrates during his running club warmup, held at Sunset Park.

While I’ve enjoyed participating in a variety of physical activities over the years, running has never been high on my list. In fact, I confess that it’s at the very bottom.

With Islander Sports Foundation (ISF) offering a new running club this fall, it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the popular activity, and Coach Abby Lund was the perfect person to ask.

She explains, “For me it’s the feeling right after you’re done running- runners’ high, as it is called, is a real thing. It feels good to have pushed yourself, and to know you can endure. You can challenge yourself to new distances or speeds, and get that sense of accomplishment, too.“

The middle school runners, who meet twice weekly, echo many of those same feelings, with seventh grader Phoebe Alari-Smith (younger sister to Coronado High School athlete Lana Alari-Smith), adding, “I suggest running to anyone who just wants to have fun and build endurance. I also like to run because it’s very accomplishing to know how many miles I can do in one practice!”

So, with the understanding that it’s not really a form of self-torture, I attended a recent practice, which begins at one of Coronado’s most picturesque spots, Sunset Park.

The small club, with 12 participants (seven girls and five boys), meets twice weekly.

Safety, of course, is vital, and with that in mind, Lund doesn’t just take off with a gaggle of middle schoolers behind her.

The crew warms up, taking easy laps around the park, active stretching, and working their way up to quicker starts and sprints across the shorter length of the park. Each session ends with gentler passive stretches, such as calf stretches, forward folds.

Lund maps out a course ahead of the practice, which is typically total 2-3 miles. The club is mostly focused on distance running, with some sprinting involved, so each practice is slightly different by design. Miles are added incrementally. The groups are loosely divided between the more experienced and beginner runners, with all of the participants encouraging each other with each step.

Each course is different, with the students running on grass, area sidewalks, the flat beach sand during low tide, and most recently, the dunes.

The duns are especially challenging, and require more stamina than running on other surfaces, so building up endurance with more basic terrain is key before tackling the more difficult loose sand that makes up the dunes.

Building up speed and stamina incrementally is easier on younger athletes, which keeps the budding runners coming back. Sixth grader Bobby Latona, who you might remember as the young singer/pianist who brought down the house at the most recent Coronado’s Talent, is enthusiastic about the club, and said, “Running club offers a variety of great workouts- from long distance runs to sprints and relays, to relaxing stretches. Especially now, it is an amazing way to connect with and make new friends while outside and having fun”.

Lund is enthusiastic about their enthusiasm, indicating that initially, she was a bit nervous being the only coach of 12 middle schoolers, but points out that they are a “lovely group of kids.” Many of them had never met prior to the club, or are new to Coronado, but Lund notes that they are kind and respectful to her and to each other, offering support and encouragement.

The runners are equally appreciative of Lund, with seventh grader Quinn Riebe offering “I have learned a lot, and I think the coach is really, really good. I think it’s also social distanced, while also being able to interact with people and have some fun. “

Lund herself sings the praises of Coronado Middle School Athletic Director Kristen Guymon, who took on a new position during the worst possible time, and who went above and beyond in creating and re-vamping new and old activities to safely keep Coronado’s sixth, seventh and eighth graders social and active in nearly every imaginable way.

To sign up your middle schooler, or to or learn more, please visit www.islandersportsfoundation.com

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