Run for it: Kids lace up their sneakers for health

Having fun while being active is the idea behind the Healthy Kids Running Series, which will get started in Hampton on Sunday, Sept. 8, and continue for the next four Sundays.
This nationwide event has four active races in New Hampshire, in Hampton, Dover, Nashua and Plaistow. Jennifer O’Brien is the community coordinator for the series in Hampton. She found out about the series while researching running events for her young daughter.

“She started expressing the desire to run in her own races,” O’Brien said. “We had been pushing her in a stroller while we ran 5K races since she was a few months old. She loved running and the environment of running events, especially the people cheering at the finish line.”

The event started at Tuck Field in Hampton in 2016, where O’Brien’s daughter participated for the first time. She loved it, and after the community coordinator moved out of state, O’Brien stepped in to continue the local program.

“There are four of us that work to keep the program running and an even larger group of volunteers that make it possible to keep going,” she said.

The event has a five-week series in both the spring and the fall on Sunday afternoons. Kids age two to 14 can sign up and run an age-appropriate distance. Kids age 2 and 3 have a 50-yard dash, and 4- and 5-year-olds run a 75-yard dash. Kids in kindergarten and first grade participate in a ¼-mile race, and second- and third-graders run a ½-mile race. Kids in fourth through eighth grade run a full mile.

“It’s a cross-country style run, where everyone finishes at the same finish line. The starting lines are staggered around the park to make the appropriate distances for each race,” O’Brien said. When the series started in Hampton, there were 23 registered runners. During the spring 2019 event 152 runners signed up. O’Brien said their largest group is usually the kindergarteners and first-graders, but she’d like to see more participants in the one-mile race.

O’Brien said that she has seen a community develop at the series, where runners cheered each other on, gave high fives and took group pictures.

“Jeff Long [founder of Healthy Kids Running Series] started it to combat increasing rates of childhood obesity, and he designed a running program that provides a fun environment and builds self-esteem,” she said. “This is something we’ve witnessed on the local level. I’ve had parents remark to me about the series providing an environment for their child to be active in, outside of organized team sports.”

All runners receive medals for participating in the five-week series. They can also earn a Healthy Kids Award, given to one runner who exemplifies all the core values behind the series.
“Each season we have difficulty picking just one runner because there are so many that fit the bill!” O’Brien said.

The Healthy Kids Running Series in Hampton will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 8, Sept. 15, Sept. 22, Sept. 29, and Oct. 6. Sign-up costs $40 for the entire series, and online registration ends on Sept. 22. Tuck Field is located at 38 Park Ave. in Hampton. Email O’Brien at with questions or for more information.

— Danielle Roberts