Originally published May 26, 2020 at MLive.com.
By Melissa Frick
As students are wrapping up an unprecedented semester of online learning due to the coronavirus crisis, Muskegon area schools are looking to end the year strong with a virtual 5K to keep communities around the state healthy, active and connected.
The “In This Together” fitness challenge, launched by Oakridge, North Muskegon and Ravenna schools, is a free competition open to school districts around the state June 8-12. Mona Shores and Muskegon Catholic schools also are participating in the event.
The winner of the race will be whichever school district has the most participants who finish the 5K. The Michigan Society of Health and Physical Educators, or SHAPE MI, has recently joined the cause to promote schools around the state to participate in the race.
“I think the most beautiful thing about this is it allows everyone to do something together, even from across the state,” said organizer Gina Doney, middle school health teacher for Oakridge.
“I think the greatest benefit is that this is giving people a reason to be active, which is the best thing we can do for ourselves right now. For a lot of people, it’s been hard to train, so now they have a reason to run."
You don’t have to be a pro runner to join in on the competition – participants are invited to take part in the 5K by walking, running, biking or hiking.
But those who are looking to push themselves can utilize free training plans and virtual training groups on the event’s webpage, which also is where participants can register. The training plans include beginner, intermediate and advanced, and training coaches also can be accessed through the event.
“I like it a lot because not a lot of people really get out and run that often and this gives a plan to actually do each day," said Oakridge High School senior Macy Whipple, who served on the race’s planning committee. "And I think by putting it against other schools, it will get other people to get more active.”
Participants will receive a bib number after registering and are encouraged to create their own bib or drawn-on tattoo with their race number.
“In This Together" race t-shirts are available for purchase starting at $6 online and pick-up available at Trophy House in Muskegon.
The competition follows a recent push by Oakridge Public Schools to promote health and wellness virtually. The district launched the Oakridge High School Health and PE Facebook page in late March to keep students, faculty and community active and connected with each other during the coronavirus pandemic.
The page, which now has almost 350 members, is a place where those in the Oakridge school community, and even beyond, can log their fitness activities each day and stay connected.
“It’s given people a sense of community in a time when so many people feel isolated,” said Oakridge High School Physical Education Teacher Sharon Schumann. “The idea was small and it just exploded, and it’s been awesome.”