Swift River School’s 100 Mile Club gets students moving

  • Swift River School students run around the school's gravel track logging miles for the 100 Mile Club, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Swift River School students run around the school’s gravel track logging miles for the 100 Mile Club. photo by Andy Castillo

  • Sally Alley Muffin, former art teacher at Swift River School, left, and Nancy Mead, the school's nurse, pose in front of a painting that documents the mileage students log for the 100 Mile Club. photo by Andy Castillo

  • A painting by Swift River School’s former art teacher Sally Alley Muffin Stuffin documents the mileage students log for the 100 Mile Club. photo by Andy Castillo

  • Swift River School Nurse Nancy Mead, left, takes a student's lanyard, which logs laps to a computer program, at the school on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Monday, February 12, 2018

NEW SALEM — Gus Radner, a fourth-grader at Swift River School, has run 162 miles this school year, and he intends to run another 138 for an even 300 before the semester’s end.

“I run a lot, I’m a soccer player,” Radner said, wearing running attire and standing in light snowfall Friday afternoon on a gravel track, which was built through donations a few years ago, outside the Wendell Road school building.

Behind Radner, a dozen other students ran or walked laps as part of the 100 Mile Club Program, a national program adopted locally in 2014 through a state grant as an initiative to get students moving.

So far this year, four students besides Radner have also surpassed 100 miles, and four entire classes have logged at least 25. Schoolwide — including four preschoolers who’ve each run 25 miles — 153 students have logged more than 7,000 total miles.

“I would say probably a quarter of the kids will reach 100 this year,” said Nancy Mead, the school’s nurse who helped bring the program into the school.

Students complete miles either at home or during an after-school running club that meets on the track (six laps for a mile), in the parking lot, or inside the school during inclement weather, where students run through hallways (17 laps for a mile). A few times, Mead estimated a third of all students have been outside running laps at once during the after school program.

Mileage is tracked using a computer program, and with magnets on a large metal-backed painting that’s displayed prominently near the front door. Runners receive small awards for reaching goals: a T-shirt for 25 miles, a gold pencil at 50, a bracelet at 75, and a gold medal for 100 miles.

Parents, school staff, and teachers have taken up the challenge, too, forming running communities outside the school and completing races together throughout the year — including a 24 hour running event later this year.

“Personally, it has changed my life. I never dreamed of it. I’ve become an ultra runner,” said Mead. Before the program started, Mead didn’t run at all. Four years later, now in her 50s, Mead is preparing to run a 100 mile race this summer, having completed a half-marathon, marathon, 40 miler, and 50k race in past years.

Mead’s 16-year-old son, Thor Mead, who now runs cross-country at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School, was also introduced to running by the 100 Mile Club.

Running as a teaching aid

“The teachers use it as a tool, too,” said Sally Alley Muffin Stuffin, a Wendell resident and, as of last year, the school’s former art teacher who now volunteers helping to count miles. If students had too much energy, or needed a break from work, she’d take them outside to run laps.

Like Mead, Sally Ally Muffin Stuffin, 63, also took up running because of the program.

“My first lap around the upper and lower fields was so painful. I felt like I was going to die. I felt like my chest was ripping apart, and I was only taking baby steps,” she said. “I did one lap for a few weeks, and then I said, ‘I can do two.’ Now I do five miles. Last summer I did it every day.”

Nationally, the 100 Mile Club was started by Kara Lubin, a fourth-generation public school teacher who was a special education specialist in southern California for almost 20 years. Lubin started the 100 Mile Club during the 1992 to 1993 school year to inspire her students, according to the program’s website.

The program’s goal, now in its 25th year (coinciding with the Pyeongchang Olympics, Mead noted) is to have students reach 100 running, jogging, or walking miles in a school year. Four years after the program was brought to the the school, many students have reached that mark. And more than that, Swift River School’s culture has changed for the better.

“A group of playing will be a running game. We’ve seen a lot of changes in individuals,” Sally Ally Muffin Stuffin said, noting that social running “breaks down a lot of assumptions and barriers. They say that the school has changed triumphantly.”

Culminating the students’ running efforts, Swift River School, as it has since 2014, will hold Run4Kids, a six hour running event at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School’s track in April. The event, which is open to the public, will be a chance for students to log more miles before the end of the semester.

Lubin has attended the local event in past years, bringing with her runners from the Boston Marathon to encourage students.

“Pretty soon we’ll be producing our own marathon runners,” Sally Alley Muffin Stuffin said.

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