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Virtual race series gives Canadian kids chance to race during COVID-19

The U.S.-based Healthy Kids Running Series is going virtual for their spring races, and Canadian children can now participate

With so many restrictions these days due to COVID-19, everyone across the country and world has been forced to get creative to keep fit—kids and families included. Schools are closed, organized sports are cancelled for the time being and parents are doing all they can to keep their kids entertained and active during these strange times. Well, parents, the Healthy Kids Running Series is here to save the day with their virtual race series. There are hundreds of opportunities for your kids to participate, and races run from now until the end of June.

The series

The Healthy Kids Running Series is based in the U.S. and features hundreds of race locations. Each location has its own series, which consists of five races in the spring and five in the fall. The Healthy Kids founder and CEO, Jeff Long, started the series in the fall of 2009—with spring races joining the lineup in 2011—and after a decade of events, they’ve become very popular.

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“When we started, the thought wasn’t to nationalize it,” Long says. “It was just a community give-back program [in Pennsylvania].” Soon, though, word of the series spread. “It just grew with people saying, ‘Hey, I’d like to bring the Healthy Kids Running Series to my town.'”

By 2015, Long says there were between 30 and 40 towns with Healthy Kids Running Series, and it keeps growing with more events popping up every year.

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“Families have moved, but parents still want a race for their kids,” Long says. “They might ask to start one themselves in their new town.” Now there are over 300 Healthy Kids Running Series locations in the U.S., and they’re hoping to expand to Canada and other countries, too.

Open to Canadians

Going into the 2020 series, no Canadian towns had applied for Healthy Kids Running events, but with COVID-19 forcing the U.S. series to go virtual, the races are now open to kids all over the world.

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“Anybody can go to our website, pick any series they want to join, and at the conclusion we’ll mail you the shirt and the medal.” Long says a Texas series has a child from Germany signed up to race—one of the company’s first international registrants.

Photo: Twitter/HealthyKidsRS

Each series is five weeks long, with one race per week, and although some series have already started, there are still plenty of racing options for Canadian families who missed the first call for registration. Long suggests considering the Vancouver, Wash., series, which begins on May 3 and runs until June 7. If that’s too soon, there are many other options at later dates, with all series finishing by June 27.

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The races

Races are open to children from the ages of two to 14 years old, with “age-appropriate distances” for each age group, starting with a 50-yard dash for younger kids and working up to mile-long runs for older runners.

Photo: Twitter/HealthyKidsRS

“This program celebrates everybody’s success,” Long says. “No matter what that looks like.” He says, for most kids, their “first running experience is their parents dragging them to a 5K.” Long thinks this is the wrong approach to introduce a child to running, and that the long distance will seem “impossible” to them, and they won’t want to run again. The shorter distances in the Healthy Kids Running Series are meant to be achievable for every kid who races, which will hopefully encourage them to continue to run as they grow older.

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If you think your town could benefit from the Healthy Kids Running Series, you can apply to start a race on their website. Although you won’t be able to organize races for this spring, you can get started on the organization of future events once we’ve left this global health crisis behind us.