EAST HARTFORD — About 2,500 students from across the state ran a lap around Rentschler Field Tuesday for the finale of a six-week fitness program.
“Run For Something Better,” sponsored by ING, seeks to introduce children to the benefits of running and healthy lifestyle choices. The event was held in association with the ING Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon, which are scheduled Saturday.
Miller Anderson, 12, a student at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, was the first to cross the finish line of the 1.1-mile course.
“It was really exciting for me,” Anderson said. He’s run one other race before and said he hopes to eventually study to be a health and fitness trainer at Stanford University.
Another 12-year-old student at Bristow, Autumn Twillie, was the second student to finish and the first female.
“It’s pretty fun,” Twillie said. “It’s good exercise and then it’s just nice to be able to run.”
The program, which began in 2008, expanded to schools outside Greater Hartford this year, according to spokeswoman Brie Barasch.
Towns with schools taking part in the event were Hartford, East Hartford, West Hartford, Berlin, Cromwell, Middlefield, Enfield, Windsor Locks, Windsor, South Windsor, Middletown, Bloomfield, and Vernon. The program includes 30 public schools across the state.
Participating schools had students run a half marathon in sections over six weeks, culminating in the group event where they run the final leg together. Barasch said that the event had previously been held at Bushnell Park in Hartford, and this was the first year where students ran at Rentschler Field.
Students were welcomed by East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, and got to take photos with the mascots from the Hartford Wolf Pack and the New Britain Rock Cats. Participants received goodie bags of water bottles and other items, as well as a medal at the finish line, just like traditional marathoners.
Jared Leghorn, a physical education and health instructor at Bristow, said many of his students would never have run the approximately 12-mile distance if not for the program.
“Running’s a tough thing to do sometimes on your own,” Leghorn said, adding that the social aspect of the program helps make running fun.
Bristow student Colby Roy, 12, agreed.
“It was a nice day, it was fun,” Roy said. “I love running.”
Text By Suzanne Carlson, Hartford Courant; Video By Audrey Kuchen, Fox CT