WESTPORT, Conn. – Runners have been flocking to the Minute Man Race in Westport for 35 years. Over the past four, the kids races under the direction of Westport teacher and Peak Performance Sports Camps director Mark Carmody have become increasingly popular.
“We’re still the little sister or brother of the group,’’ Carmody said. “But we’re getting bigger. Last year we had about 200, this year we’re hoping for about 300. If we could that, it would be great.”
Carmody, who teaches physical education at Long Lots Elementary, has brought structure and organization to the kids’ races. “When I was asked to get involved, I asked for a blueprint on how things were done,’’ he said. “There was no blueprint. It was kind of thrown together, very informal. It was like they lined up, and somebody and said go.”
Carmody created races for three age groups. Children ages 3-5 run a 100-yard dash. The 6-8-year-olds run a half mile, and kids 9-12 run one mile. He also gives awards to the first boy and girl of each age in the race, and every runner gets a ribbon. The youngest runners run down a path filled with white lines that makes it appear as if they’re running on a track.
“Before, the fastest kid got a trophy and that was it,’’ Carmody said. “Being an educator and running the sports camps, I know how kids work. One trophy for 6-9-year-olds won’t work. That doesn’t bode well for getting competitors to return. This way everyone has a fair shake. You don't have kids walking off crying.”
Some children even run with their parents in the 5k. The experience gladdens the heart of Carmody, who sees students past, current and future run in the race.
“It really is a win-win situation,’’ Carmody said. “My dream was to get into one community as a teacher and sink my teeth into it. It’s a neat experience for me. It’s exactly what I wanted to do, and be a part of a community. I couldn’t be happier with what’s going on in Westport.”
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