“We’ve been training for months to run the 5K,” said Armando Rodriguez, an eighth grader at Orozco Community Academy in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. “Today our training is getting put to the test.”
On Saturday, no less than 1,000 athletes and spectators of all ages shrugged off the drizzly weather to participate in the 19th Annual Alivio Y Salud Run for Health in Pilsen. The 5K Run, 5K Kids Run and the 2 Mile Walk and Kids Dash drew a healthy crowd, most were family members of area-school children there to compete.
Robert Reznar, coach of Orzoco’s Running Club, began training 75 kids for this race in February. The club meets after school two times a week.
“I think for a lot of kids it’s a social thing, so there’s no tryout for the kids, said Reznar. “They can just come on out and have a good time with their friends and get a good workout.”
Reznar, who is also the health and fitness teacher at Orozco, says sports activities like the running club are essential to students well being. The school has a high incidence of student obesity, a problem he partially attributes to gang problems in the area. “The neighborhood is a little dangerous, so parents are reluctant to let their kids outside during the day to play," said Reznar. “We’re trying to use our programming to teach them how important it is to take care of their health at an early age.”
The months of training paid off, as five of Reznar’s students placed in the top 10 in their age divisions. Rodriguez won 10th place in his division.
“My favorite part about running is the challenge, [our coaches] challenge us a lot,” he said. “They make us sprint and run for 30 minutes, which I thought I couldn’t do. It was a great challenge for me and I overcame it.”