Tonight marked the end of the Fall Foot Patrol season. For six weeks, five coaches and I played running games, discussed hydration, the YMCA Core Values, the importance of stretching and good nutrition, and gradually increased our running distance with close to 30 elementary school students. Wow.

To celebrate how far they’ve come, today the runners completed their final 1.6 mile run around Lake Tye, a pretty man-made lake across the street from the YMCA. The far side of the lake backs up to a cattle farm, from which you can look across the lake and see the Cascade Mountains. Tonight, thanks to Daylight Savings, our 4:30 run was at sunset. We were treated to a beautiful pink sky and the near-full moon smiled at us from above while its reflection shimmered hello to us from the lake’s surface. While the majority of the runners ran 1.6 miles, eight amazing kids reached their goal of a full 5K (two laps around said lake). They ran it and they were STRONG.

I posted on Facebook: “I ran 5K this afternoon with some of my favorite people – eight 3rd – 5th graders. Along the way they made up cheers about Foot Patrol, high-fived and cheered on the younger kids who were running 1.6 miles, laughed and soaked-in the beauty of the moon’s reflection on the lake we ran around and the pink sky at sunset. It was perhaps my favorite 5K of all times.”

When I returned to the “party room” reserved for our post-run celebration with the 5K runners, we were greeted to cheers from parents and the younger runners. It was an incredible atmosphere of pride and confidence. The parents were beaming because running such a distance is something many of them have yet to accomplish, or something that they never imagined their child would do with such excitement and success. The kids were congratulating one another and chanting “Go, Foot Patrol!” between sips of cider and bites of cheese or apples.  After I passed out their certificates, for which each child got their own round of applause, one boy asked if he could share a prayer. It being the YMCA, how could I refuse?

“Dear God, Thank you for this running club and for making running the best sport ever. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.”

Before Foot Patrol, this exuberant young soul didn’t know he had a passion for running. But there is no doubt about that fact now. He tells everyone that he loves to run. And he made it no secret that he’s bummed Foot Patrol won’t be happening again until the spring. He’s not alone in his disappointment, as just about every kid asked on the way out when the next Foot Patrol session is. The group dynamics with this session’s runners was the best I’ve ever seen, truly a teacher’s dream, so part of me is sad, too, that I won’t be running with these kids again sooner than late April or early May.

I’ve been running for eight years now. I ran a marathon when I was 25, I did a 10K with a friend for her birthday last year, and I have no idea how many 5K’s I’ve run. But as I posted this evening, my run with these wide-eyed, happy kids was by far my best run.

Dear God, Thank you for making running the best sport ever. And thanks for helping these kids discover it, too. Amen.