Originally published April 29, 2021 by the Citrus County Chronicle.

By Buster Thompson

One way or another, Citrus County’s youngsters got their miles in for a good cause.

After COVID-19 caused the 12th annual LifeSouth Community Foundation Kids Marathon in the county to go virtual for the 2020-21 academic year, physical education classes at the Citrus County School District’s elementary and middle hosted their own races.

LifeSouth’s marathon in the county, which promotes heart health and active lifestyles, is typically held at Lecanto High School, where more than 1,000 children have participated in the last four years. Marion and Hernando counties also hold their own LifeSouth kids marathons.

Since November, 526 Forest Ridge Elementary students — from kindergarten to fifth grade — have been logging their 26.2 miles on the school’s track over its bus ramp.

Mandy Adams-LaJeunesse, Forest Ridge Elementary’s P.E. teacher of 13 years, got some of her students to either speed-walk, jog or run their last mile the week of April 26, while other students were able to get some bonus laps in.

“It makes them realize how much work it can be,” she said about the marathon’s benefits, “but that’s a good thing; it’s not all fun and games.”

Brooklynn Tracy and Danielle Wood, both 10, joined their fourth-grade classmates Wednesday to finish their mile, which Mandy Adams-LaJeunesse times as around 30 minutes.

Each time the students completed a lap, with six equaling a mile, they’d pick up a Popsicle stick.

At the end of her student’s final marathon mile, Adams-LaJeunesse awarded them with LifeSouth medals, T-shirts, reusable water-bottles and tote tokens to hang from bags and necklaces.

“It was fun,” Brooklynn said, “it keeps you healthy.”

“And it makes you fit and strong,” Danielle added. “I was pretty excited when I got to my last lap.”

Brooklyn and Danielle said they’ll try to run more in the future, along with eating healthier and drinking a lot of water.

Adams-LaJeunesse said some children have already gotten their parents involved by running at home.

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    Back in person, students celebrate the final steps of the annual LifeSouth Kids Marathon.
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