Little ‘reindeers’ run for joy in park

Updated: 2015-12-07 06:30

By HEZI JIANG in New York(China Daily USA)

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Little ‘reindeers’ run for joy in park

Two boys of PS 1 in Chinatown sprinted to the finish line of the half-mile Reindeer Run organized by New York Road Runners (NYRR) at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York on Dec 5. HEZI JIANG/China Daily

Christmas came to Brooklyn early when 445 “reindeers” traversed Prospect Park.

Wearing antler headbands, 240 girls and 205 boys sprinted to the finish line of the half-mile Reindeer Run, organized by the New York Road Runners (NYRR), on Dec 5.

“I only stopped like two or three times today,” Elaine Dong, a fifth-grader from PS 1 in Chinatown, said with pride.

Eighteen children from PS 1 took part in the run, displaying their endurance from daily runs at their school.

“During gym classes, they practice pacing and how to run at a steady pace without getting so tired,” said Christine Wong, the leader of the school’s Mighty Milers program.

The largest free youth running program in the United States, Mighty Milers, which also is run by NYRR, lets youngsters incorporate running during the school day. Each one strives to run 26.2 miles or more over the course of a school year, in effect eventually running a marathon.

“First try to run one minute without stopping, then two minutes without stopping, three minutes without stopping,” said Wong. “We encourage the kids to just jog a little bit to get the heart rate up and keep that consistent pace.”

The tracking system also keeps the students motivated.

“We take all the laps, add them up, and put them online. Kids love it,” said Matt Sutherland, physical education teacher at the school. “Every day they always ask, ‘Can we run more?’ ”

To encourage the children, NYRR invited two professional Chinese runners to PS 1 during the athletes' last trips to the New York City Marathon. Twenty-eight children gathered in the gym to meet Ding Chanqin from Guiyang province and Li Zicheng from Shandong. Li finished 17th in the women’s field at this year’s marathon.

“It’s really nice for the two elite runners to come visit. The students really got to see elite runners face-to-face, and ask them personal questions about running,” Wong said. “They are not just hearing from teachers; they are hearing from real runners, too. And the runners are from China.”

When asked what she likes about running, Zhixin Huang replied: “I like to run, because when I met the Chinese runners, they let me think of running almost as fun.”

For some children, running is more serious and competitive.

Fourth-grader Jaden Hernandez said that he walks across the Brooklyn Bridge and then runs back every Saturday.

“When I started running, people started bullying me, saying I’m so slow,” he said. “So after that, I started training so I can be quicker than them. I started bullying them back.”

After the Reindeer Run, NYRR held its annual Jingle Bell Jog, a festive, four-mile benefit race. More than 5,000 runners of all ages — some dressed like Santa Claus and his elves — took part.

According to NYRR, each entry fee in the Jingle Bell Jog gives the gift of running, and it is equivalent to supporting a student in the Mighty Milers program for a year.