Penticton’s middle school students are on the run.

As part of Challenge Penticton, students are taking part in the Middle School Marathon Challenge for nine weeks. Challenge Penticton co-race director Kevin Cutjar has approached McNicoll Park, KVR and Skaha Lake by volunteering his time to the students. McNicoll Park started on April 20, while Skaha Lake started on Monday. Students run/walk two kilometres 20 times over that period. Then in mid June, they will complete 2.2 km and arrive at the Valley First Challenge Penticton finish line. Those who finish receive a T-Shirt and medal.

“They seem very receptive to the idea,” said Cutjar. “I talked about Jeff Symonds being a local kid. He started out as a runner. He had small goals along the way. It’s a way of achieving something big. It helps to get them to do something big in small steps.”

The students are enjoying it and getting different experiences as it adds to their daily physical activity.

“It’s just been cool. It’s not very hard to do two kilometres a day,” said A.J. Reiter, a Grade 8 McNicoll Park student. “It’s nothing compared to a real marathon. It’s just cool that if you keep doing this, you can add up and maybe eventually do a marathon yourself.”

He has also liked participating with friends, who try to best each other.

Cole Boczulak likes the idea of it because, as he puts it, you don’t have to be the best.

“I try to run my fastest. It’s just good for exercise. Maybe for fun and challenging yourself,” he said, adding it’s not overly competitive amongst the students. “I think its been pretty fun.”

Lyndsey Fotheringham is happy that the school is doing it.

“It’s definitely a good goal to get in the end of it,” said Fotheringham, who hasn’t done a marathon. “It’s an amazing accomplishment I would say.”

The group gets motivation from each other. Fotheringham does from running with Allyn Deakin as they push each other to run faster. Deakin joked that at the end she can say she did a marathon in Grade 8.

“It was pretty cool to be out there with someone that is an awesome runner,” said Deakin of Cutjar, who ran with them. “I just like to run. It’s just fun to get out and run.”

Before going on the run, Cutjar spoke to the students.

“It’s pretty cool. He teaches us how to run faster, how to pace ourselves,” said Reiter. “It’s pretty cool to run with him and try to keep up with him. I don’t think he was running his hardest.”

Boczulak enjoyed learning from Cutjar.

“I think for me the best part is at the end when you are done,” he said. “Pushing yourself to do your best.”

Cutjar said he thought it would be good to do this district-wide, especially with there being roughly 1,000 students.

“A lot of kids already run. Some don’t do much. This gives an opportunity for them to do something they can work towards in their daily physical activity,” said Cutjar, who has liked the response from students.

He added it’s the students who don’t run as often that will be influenced the most.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “Get to see kids who otherwise wouldn’t run giving it a go.”

McNicoll Park principal Lloyd Lindsay said it’s great for the kids for their daily physical activity and tying it into something that is really big for Penticton that all the kids know.

“It’s not restricted to just the best athletes, the best runners,” said Lindsay. “There is a walking program. Lots of ways for everyone to complete it. It’s a perfect fit.”