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Published February 08 2010

Wagner: Valentine’s kids run inspires camaraderie

Sometimes everyone needs someone to run with. Cindy Varriano, a fourth-grade teacher at Fargo’s Bennett Elementary School, understands this better than most.

For the second consecutive year, Cindy has organized a group of children to run a couple times each week. And, like last year, she’s taking Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to share their goal with a loved one.

This Friday, children will line up with an adult – family, friends and volunteers like members from the Fargo South High cross country team – to run a 5K.

“Valentine’s Day is no time to be alone, especially in a race,” Cindy says. “If I could wrap everyone’s head around the idea of getting kids more exercise during the day, I would be one happy person.”

Kids, similar to many adults, often don’t get the exercise they need. Study after study shows that vigorous exercise every day can help reduce or eliminate a lot of the health problems we see later in life.

“With childhood obesity at an all-time high, I felt I had to do something,” Cindy says.

With schools – including those in Fargo – cutting back on gym class, it’s not easy for kids to get the exercise they need. Programs like the one Cindy heads up is a big step in solving the problem – and hopefully will teach kids love for a sport that can lifelong dividends.

“If they don’t have gym class every day, I highly doubt that every child is getting vigorous exercise each day,” Cindy says.

“Some are in organized sports, but many are not. That’s why I decided to run with them. Running is a lifetime sport. You can do it anywhere and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to buy the equipment.”

In short, Cindy’s program is designed to help kids get the exercise they need, slowly build their running ability and teach them the benefits of exercise.

“These fourth-graders did not start the school as runners, but now more than three-fourths of my class jogs the entire three-mile route twice a week,” Cindy says.

She’s used money earned from bake sales to buy a set of balaclavas for winter running, but still is looking for willing businesses to sponsor the class with winter running clothes.

Last year, Cindy’s entire class ran the 5K race at the Fargo Marathon.

She’s continuing her efforts this year as students began training in September for this spring’s event.

And those efforts are made more special with events like this Friday’s “Run with a Loved One.”

“This year’s Valentine’s 5K is going to better and bigger than last year’s run because we have doubled the number of runners,” says Cindy, who invited South High’s runners since not every child has a parent who can make the 9 a.m. race. “It is great to see the kids get so fired up that their mom or dad will be coming to run with them.”

After the race, students and their loved ones will enjoy healthy snacks instead of the usual treats associated with Valentine’s Day.

The best part is Cindy is doing a terrific job of keeping children active and reinforcing a healthy lifestyle.


Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found at www.areavoices.com/runningspud. He can be reached at (701) 241-5542 or swagner@forumcomm.com.