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Stoneleigh Elementary students in Towson get a running start to the day

Even before the morning announcements aired on April 15, Stoneleigh Elementary School had exciting news brewing … behind the schoolhouse. The SES PTA kicked off “The Morning Mile,” a fitness program that encourages students to start each day with healthy activity. And if the success of the launch is any indication, it’s going to be a popular morning ritual for many students and families.

The Morning Mile was started in Florida in 2010 by fitness enthusiast mom Fitz Koehler, and has spread to more than 350 schools in 20 states. The idea is for 30 minutes before school each morning, students complete as many laps around a designated course as they’d like. Some run at a full sprint, others walk and talk with friends, some even skip! The goal is to get kids moving, to build bone strength, develop muscle, fight obesity, boost cognitive performance and aid focus. Plus, exercise endorphins help students start the day feeling positive.

Thanks to a generous sponsorship from Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Stoneleigh’s PTA was able to purchase the Morning Mile starter kit, including a portable stereo, incentive necklaces and charms, reusable lap-counter sticks, software to calculate running data, and other essentials. Participation is free for students. It’s not a “club.” It’s not mandatory, and there’s no pressure.

Kids can be there fully from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m., or jump in at 8:20 and grab a lap or two before school begins. Younger students must be accompanied by an adult, and many parents and little siblings join the fun rather than standing on the sidelines. Students earn colorful sneaker-shaped necklace charms for every 5 miles logged, and special “100” charms when they reach that major milestone.

Physical education teacher Tim Lane helped the PTA plot and measure the course, a 1/8-mile loop. Parent volunteers help supervise the event and “check out” the students by collecting their lap counters and marking down their achievements that day. On the first morning, 114 students showed up; 148 on the second morning; and 163 on the third morning (the day of this writing). By 8:30 a.m. on that third day, students had logged an astounding 6,072 laps (759 miles) in total, and 44 students had already earned their first 5-mile charms.

SES PTA President Mia Capen is thrilled to see how pumped up the students are to join the Morning Mile.

“Morning Mile had such a great kickoff at Stoneleigh,” Capen said. “You could see the pride the kids felt in accomplishing laps. This program has the chance to be so impactful. Not only does it allow the students to get some energy out before sitting down for most of the day, but it could also set them up with healthy habits that could last a lifetime.”

The Morning Mile will continue through the remainder of the school year and resume when school starts up in September. It will take place every school day (weather permitting), hopefully, for many school years to come!

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