On Monday morning, some students from McNary Heights Elementary School ran at full speed around the perimeter of the school’s grass field, while others took a slower approach.

All of them were working toward the school’s fitness goals, as part of the 33rd annual McNary Marathon, which had started that day. The marathon is a two-week event, where students are encouraged to spend their 20-minute lunch recess doing laps around the field.

Mairiani Aparicio flew through the laps. The second-grader will start track this week, and said she is looking forward to getting better at the sport.

“My favorite thing being out here is to run fast,” she said.

While not all students were sprinting, most said they enjoy getting out and walking or jogging a few laps every day.

Several of them set goals for themselves, to run a certain amount each day, or by the end of the two weeks.

“I want to do 10 laps in one day,” said second-grader Aryanna Banda.

“The kids will fine-tune,” said Principal Rick Cotterell. “They pace themselves over the two weeks.”

Each student is given a card, and adults are stationed at each corner of the field to punch the card every time they complete a lap. Each student aims to complete a certain number of laps in the two-week period, to meet grade level standards.

After the two-week event is over, school P.E. teacher Brandt Lind said they will have an assembly. Children who met the standard, as well as those who ran the most laps, get recognized. Students also have the opportunity to win prizes for completing laps.

He said the point of the event is to encourage all levels of fitness, rather than to run a certain distance. Still, he said, there are students who will run the whole time, and cover a lot of ground.

“If a fourth- or fifth-grader can make it above 80 laps in eight days, essentially they’re doing a couple of miles each day, which is pretty impressive,” he said.

Lind said they encourage the students to set personal goals.

“It’s the idea that fitness is an investment,” he said. “You put something in, and you get something back.”

There are several running-themed programs at McNary Heights. The Marathon happens every spring, and fifth-grade teacher Frankie Garcia runs the McNary USA program, a cross-country team for students. The kids practice every day during the fall, and once a week during track season.

“We have some third- and fourth-graders who are really good,” he said. “Track starts this week, so this (the marathon) gets them excited and in shape.”

Cotterell, who went to McNary Heights, said he remembers doing the McNary Marathon when he was a student. He said they hope to invest more in the program.

“We’ve been working on a grant to put in a trail, so we wouldn’t have to put cones on the field,” Cotterell said. “And I’d love in the future to look into some kind of technology to track laps and get rid of the cards.”

Lind said he’s pleased the marathon has been such a success over the years.

“Not every tradition is embraced, because times change,” he said. “But this is one the kids seem to embrace.”

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