Originally published Oct. 31, 2017 in the Vancouver Sun.
By Nick Eagland
When students from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary cross the Sun Run finish line together next April, they will have earned a lot more than just a mention on the results board.
They have been walking, jogging and running in the annual springtime road race for well over a decade, and consistently make up one of the largest teams to participate each year.
For the 2016-2017 academic year, close to a third of the school’s 2,021 students joined the 40,000-person throng as it made its way through downtown Vancouver. That school spirit won the 645-member team a $600 prize for being the largest secondary school group involved.
Greg Pears, who heads Churchill’s physical education department, said that money helped cover costs of a year-end camping trip for the physical education department’s student leadership group — a reward for all their hard work and volunteer hours in helping organize its Sun Run program.
But students who enter the Sun Run also get to tack on a few percentage points to their “active health” grade, as well as skip one of two annual “fitness runs.”
The Sun Run provides an extra incentive for students who are driven by marks, but beyond that, it gives them a chance to socialize and get active outdoors, Pears said.
“A lot of them, once they get out there, they realize the great environment it is, they see the tons of people,” he said. “We relate that back to healthy living, healthy lifestyle, with our courses.”
There’s no pressure for students to race, but a lot of senior students return to the course — even if they are no longer taking a block of physical education — because they don’t want to miss out, Pears said.
Their ranks and official times in the race play no role in their grades.
“It’s just about being a part of the event,” Pears said. “A lot of kids go with their friends and take the SkyTrain down there. It’s nice to get outside on a Sunday morning.”
For the 34th annual Sun Run next year (Sunday, April 22), the team hopes to snag the $600 prize again.
There is a total of $3,600 in prizes to be awarded to Sun Run youth teams for the race, including $600 for the largest elementary school group and $400 for the largest school group from outside the Lower Mainland. Last year, 116 youth teams participated.
Early-bird registration for youth teams that sign up before Feb. 16 is $22 for runners 18 or younger and $35 for adults. Then, up until the March 16 deadline, it is $32 for youth and $40 for adults.
Registration opens Nov. 1.