Race emphasizes fun, fitness rather than competition

Children and teens competed in last year’s Short Pump Mile race at Short Pump Town Center (photo by Wayne Miller for the Henrico Citizen)

Lilly Snow and Maura Graff were not concerned about their times or their place-cards. The 10-year-old best friends’ only ambition at the 2011 Short Pump Mile was to run it side by side.

The two girls led for the entirety of their heat last September, matching each other stride for stride. As they approached the finish line, their swim-team coach, who was riding a bike along side the race, asked them what they planned to do about finishing. Who wanted to win?

They both said they had no interest in beating the other. It was then that Lilly and Maura elected to hold hands and finish the race together, as co-champions.

“You have to understand these races were fairly competitive, said Gina Snow, Lilly’s mother. “And when Lilly and Maura did that, there were people who were absolutely in tears.”

“That’s something you would only really see at a kids’ race,” said Bridget Cuthbert, one of the event’s organizers.

On Sept. 30, the Short Pump Mile & Short Pump Express Fun Run will return for its fourth year at the Short Pump Town Center. The first heat will begin at 7:45 a.m.

All children and teens 18 and younger are eligible to participate in the race. Registration is $15 per person.

The event began back in 2009. Cuthbert and others at NOVA of Virginia Aquatics helped propel the race into motion.

“It’s modeled after the Great Train Race in Fredericksburg,” Cuthbert said. “The director of that race, Debi Bernardes, approached NOVA and asked if we’d be interested in helping her organize this in Richmond.”

Cuthbert said Bernardes had wanted to make a race just for children – one that would teach them about the competitive aspects of racing.
Last year’s Short Pump Mile & Short Pump Express Fun Run attracted many smiling faces.

NOVA of Virginia Aquatics is a youth swim club that trains more than 800 members and offers thousands of swim lessons annually in Richmond.

The Short Pump Run warrants the help of more than 50 volunteers, the majority of whom are NOVA swim parents. It’s not a NOVA-exclusive event, however, Cuthbert said.

“The majority of the kids who run aren’t NOVA [participants],” Cuthbert said. “We get the word out to physical education teachers, track coaches and school principals all around the area to get students there.”

A diverse array of Richmond area schools have participated in the race in the past. The St. Mary’s for Kids offers a School Participation Award, which is a $2,000 prize to the five schools that have the most runners participate.

“The money goes towards physical education programs,” Cuthbert said. “There’s a real emphasis on learning how to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Last year, the top five participants respectively were Rivers Edge Elementary, Collegiate, Nuckols Farm Elementary, Shady Grove Elementary and Colonial Trail Elementary.

Overall participation in the run has gone from 450 children in 2009 to 935 in last year’s event.

“This year, we’re definitely shooting for over 1,000 participants,” Cuthbert said.

Along with a participation award, there are also awards for those who finish in first and second in their respective heats. First-place finishers receive $100 gift certificates from Dick’s Sporting Goods and second-place finishers receive $75 gift certificates.

Every child, no matter the outcome, also receives a participation medal and T-shirt at the end of the race.

“Before I saw one of the races in Fredericksburg, I wondered why so many kids would want to participate in a race,” Cuthbert said. “But after you see the kids near the finish line, they get cheered on by those around them and have these big smiles on their faces, then you begin to understand. This is definitely an environment of participation over competition.”

For race and registration information, visit http://www.shortpumprace1.com.
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