Grace Stein will be a seventh grader this fall at Fort Gratiot Middle School. By the time she arrives, she hopes to have undergone a physical transformation that will help pave the way to a successful season running on the track and field team. Stein is currently participating in the Port Huron Recreational Department Kids Running Club, which meets throughout the summer on Monday and Wednesday at the Fort Gratiot Trail for $35. The price includes a T-shirt, water and a snack, but the increased endurance and noticeable improvements among the participants carries more than just monetary value.
“It’s nice to get outside and do things,” Stein, 12, said. “I like running. I think this is going to help my endurance and prepare me for next year. I’ve learned to always keep your hands loose. I have improved my times by a couple of minutes each mile.
“When I first started, it was pretty bad. I was running a mile in about 15 minutes. Now I can run a mile in eight minutes. It’s been a dramatic change.”
That’s music to Recreation Coordinator Whitney Currah’s ears.
Around this time last year, Currah was getting her first taste of the sport. In the time since, she has not only become passionate about running but is now instilling that same drive in the young adolescents in the program.
“It’s one of those things everyone can do,” Currah said. “You don’t have to have a special skill. You just have to be able to get out and move. I started running last April, and it’s very addicting once you start running.”
After beginning the program last year, it has taken off this summer, as participation has doubled.
“Last year we were just starting out, and we were having a hard time motivating some of the kids,” Currah said. “This year we brought out our time clock so we time them and keep a list of how fast they go. We have a lot of runners this year. We ran at least a 5k (3.1 miles) last week, and we did it in 26-and-a-half minutes.
“That’s pretty good for kids when they are between 8 and 12 year-old.”
Erica Cope is one of the instructors of the program. After playing sports such as volleyball and basketball in high school, she is now helping pave the road for others to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s nice to watch them have an accomplishment,” Cope said. “For some of the younger ones, three miles is a lot for them. But we will pick spots on the trail and have them run to a certain tree, and they will be excited to reach their short-term goal. Then next week, we build up a little further.”
After the success and growth of the program, Currah said she plans to expand it into the fall with the hope that it will continue its momentum.
“We work on breathing and pacing in our workouts,” Currah said. “We want them to have good breathing habits and a good stride. It’s nice to see them being active.”