When Jen Schorz, local long-distance runner, crossed the finish line with her three year old son, Malik, her heart swelled. He was running in the 1km kids’ race, organized by Run Squamish as part of their annual Loop the Lakes, and it was his first race.
Run by Locals, For Locals
“I’m not an emotional person but I teared up because of the look on his face at the finish line. He wasn’t first or second, maybe even near the last, but he was so surprised to see so many people cheering him on…seeing those people there for him gave him such validation,” she said.
“I asked him this morning how it made him feel and he said, ‘It made my heart grow bigger because I was so happy! I want to do it again.’”
A Learning Opportunity
Beyond being a tonne of fun and helping him feel great about himself, Malik’s first race was also a positive learning experience, Schorz explained.
“During the race I was able to teach him things along the way such as empathy and helping others, because there were lots of roots which some children were falling over. We’d go over to them to make sure they were okay and that’s really stuck with him because now, when he sees other kids falling over, he walks over to make sure they’re okay. It was a great teaching tool and a great experience,” she said.
Loop the Lakes- Race Day
Schorz had been taking part in one of Loop of Lakes’ longer runs earlier that day. When she asked Malik afterwards if he’d like to run in the 1km kids’ race alongside her, he enthusiastically said yes.
Up until then, he’d seen his mom cross many start and finish lines, she explained, but this was the first opportunity he’d had to experience what’s involved in between.
“Ever since then he’s realised that you need endurance and strength (both physical and mental). Now he’ll say, ‘I’m mentally strong,’ if he encounters something challenging,” she said.
Running 15 Years and Going Strong
The kids’ 1km race is just one of four Loop the Lakes running events (the others being 8km, 15km, and a half marathon) organized by local non-profit organization Run Squamish. Though it’s possibly the highlight of this family-focussed day, explained Sean Verret, Run Squamish Board Member.
“Our start line will probably have anywhere between 50 and 150 kids,” he explained. “When they take off the energy is awesome…you have the super determined kids right at the front, then you’ve got the others hanging back just smelling the flowers, and then there are parents with little ones at the very back just taking their time.”
The route follows the loop around Alice Lake, he explained, and there’s no pressure to win or even be fast. Children can stop to look at bugs, watch the geese, be picked up, carried, pushed in strollers. Whatever works for you and your family, and gives them the most positive experience.
“Everyone is just out enjoying running in the outdoors. There’s healthy competition but it’s not competitive,” he explained.
There are also no prizes, he explained, except for a Freezie at the finish.
The race is open to all children, explained Sean, and added that children usually range from two to 12 years old.
“As long as they have a pair of shoes and a smile any kid can do it…and don’t think about it as being competitive. It’s about being fun, being outside and enjoying a great day in the community.”
Moms and Dads are welcome to run (or walk) the race too, and to join in the crowds cheering them on.
Ignite a Love of Running in Kids
Should your child’s first 1km ignite their love of running, the annual Loop the Lakes offers race distances that grow with your child.
They can continue to run the 1km until they’re around 12 years old, explained Sean, then there’s the 8km, the 15km and the half marathon to train for, if they wish.
“If we can help inspire kids to get out and be active it’s only going to help in their future development,” explained Sean.
Growing the next generation of healthy, active children, however, is far easier when they have healthy, active parents, he explained. Entering the kids’ race as a family offers a great opportunity to do just that—to get out together and have fun while being active in the fresh air.
Jen agrees. “To me, you have choices. You can work all day, come home and sit on the couch and not do anything and not be active…or you have the other choice,” she said.
“And it’s not an easy one because your time is so valuable, so yes it means sometimes I go out at 4am for a run, or wait until the kids are in bed and go out in the pouring rain but this is the choice I make because my health depends on exercise. And it’s a choice I show my children. It’s not always easy but you’re doing something because it feels good and Malik understands that now, I think.”
Details and Sign-Up Bonus
This year’s Loop the Lakes takes place on May 13th and contains three races for adults, in addition to the 1km kids’ race.