Several runners in the annual Rhiannon McCuish 5K Woodland Walk & Run at Heritage Park last Saturday turned their heads upon noticing some much smaller competitors. The participants, ages 7 to 12, were trained in a new running group for children through In Motion Training, led by Mashpee parent Nicole M. Spencer.
The race was the culmination of the six-week training, during which a dozen children from Barnstable and Mashpee ran twice per week in one-hour sessions. The group is one of several offered through the training business, which also includes adult beginner/intermediate and advanced sessions, but it is the first for children.
The coach also used the sessions as a fundraiser by donating $50 from each $169 registration fee to Heroes in Transition, a local, not-for-profit organization that helps veterans and their families, for which she serves as the director of development.
For Ms. Spencer, working with children allowed her to try new methods of coaching.
“We focused on time, not distance,” she said, repeating the lesson she stressed to her trainees, “It’s not about the person sitting next to you, it’s about how you do.”
Because she is a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) certified coach, Ms. Spencer was able to use the RRCA’s running program for children, Kids Run the Nation, to guide the sessions, teaching her group the basics of stretching, running, nutrition and safety.
Maintaining the children’s focus was a challenge, so she incorporated running into games and exercises to make the activity fun—and discovered quickly that the youngsters enjoyed it, after they reported their enthusiasm to their parents.
But more than keeping them active, Ms. Spencer said, she constantly worked to boost the youngsters’ confidence.
“The whole goal with the program was not to make kids be able to run three miles and not stop. It was to make them feel like they can do something that they never thought they could do,” she said, smiling.
But a few of the novice runners made it their personal goal not to stop during the 5K, and some even placed in the race. Elise Edmonds, 11, and Brady Johnston, 10, both won in their age groups.
It made her feel emotional because some children could not run initially more than two minutes. After the training, they were able to do a 5K in six weeks, Ms. Spencer said, adding that she has heard positive feedback.
Parents have told her that their children already miss the running group, and cannot wait to continue sessions in the fall. Ms. Spencer is also the co-founder of Mashpee Madness, a running group that competes in the Cape Cod Marathon and Relay and fundraises for a local family in need.