Fitness

Torrington KidsMarathon teaches fitness while playing – Torrington Citizen Register

TORRINGTON – For nearly ten years, Tim Gaffney has gathered students from around Litchfield County to participate in the Ron Dixon KidsMarathon, a fitness challenge for high school students.

This year, Gaffney is expecting another large crowd of students and leaders for the event, which is now known as the Torrington Kids Marathon, and is set for June 4 at Torrington High School.

Purpose Torrington Kids Marathon is to help fight childhood obesity in children under the age of 12. “Getting and keeping our children physically fit has been the goal of the Kids Marathon since Dixon started the program nearly two decades ago,” said Gaffney. “It has grown in the United States and the world since its inception.”

The KidsMarathon model is an 8-to-12-week, school-based running and nutrition education program that allows children to complete a full marathon, 26.2 miles by running approximately three miles each week. Schools receive a packet of information explaining the program and invite students to sign up.

Along with Forbes’ children from Torrington, Vogel Wetmore, Torringford and Southwest elementary schools, this year’s participants include students graduating from Region 20, formerly Region 6 and Litchfield public schools; Northern Region 7, comprising the towns of Barkhamstead, Colebrook, New Hartford and Norfolk; and Northern Canaan.

Gaffney, longtime sports reporter and owner and founder Litchfield County Sportsjournal and websiteHe covered the KidsMarathon as a reporter and volunteered when the event was held in Litchfield and was watched by Dixon.

The event grew and eventually moved to Torrington in 2017. But due to the pandemic, Dixon, a resident of New Zealand, was unable to make the trip; in 2012 the event was removed.

“He’s stuck at home in New Zealand,” Gaffney said. “Ron is a good friend and we got along so well. So when he couldn’t do the KidsMarathon here, he wanted me to do it. I said if I do it, I’ll do it my way. It’s agreed, and it’s always been that way.

His “proper way” is simply the expansion of the fitness program to include as many children as possible. Last year, Gaffney estimated that more than 3,000 children participated. Increased teacher participation led to more student work; Fortunately, Gaffney had no problem finding more young kids to coach. His connections for sports writers, and through Litchfield Sports County, provided plenty of candidates.

“The mentoring program always gets better every year,” he said. “We have athletes who have already graduated from Torrington High School who come back and work with the kids. They love it. It’s just a great experience for all of them.”

Student leaders are often baseball, basketball or track athletes at THS, and they sign on to the team and work with them, doing drills, talking about healthy eating and the like, he said. Other leaders hail from North Region 7 and Forman School in Litchfield.

“This year, we decided to get mentoring teams for each grammar school that signed up. At noon a few weeks ago, we had 300 kids waiting for us in the gym,” said Gaffney. “We came in and had a big spread, singing ‘Rocky’ and the kids were all excited.”

After that big entrance, Gaffney and the older students talk about healthy foods and drinks, asking the kids what’s better—Gatorade or water, for example—and whether bananas are a healthy food versus chips or whatever they’re looking for.

“They make it into the game, and that’s how we start by helping them learn to make healthy choices,” Gaffney said. “It’s a way for teachers to teach even older students to talk to kids and learn to speak in front of a large audience. From what I’ve heard, they all have fun.”

Each week during the 12-week program, which began in March, high school students and graduates will visit their school to exercise together, with the goal of running three miles per week. By the end of the program on June 4, each boy will have completed a marathon.

At the Torrington High School stadium that day, each school will have its own registration table. T-shirts and medals have been donated by local businesses, and volunteers are helping Gaffney organize teams to run around the track for the closure.

“I can’t say enough about the volunteers, the kids, the teachers, the school principals, everyone,” Gaffney said. “He’s supported everyone all these years.”

For information, ad www.kidsmarathonfoundation.org/kidsmarathon.

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Ava Grey

Hi there! I'm Ava Grey, an enthusiastic article writer with a passion for the arts, fashion, and staying informed about current events. As a journalism student at the New York Academy of Art, I'm driven to use my writing to create positive change and spark meaningful conversations. I'm particularly interested in contemporary art and sustainable fashion, and I love exploring how people use these mediums to express themselves and communicate their values. I believe that staying informed and hearing different perspectives is essential for personal growth and learning, and I'm always eager to engage in lively debates and discussions.

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