Elementary Students Excel in Keane Foundation 5K
WETHERSFIELD - Peter Briggeman stood on the grass near the finish line at Standish Park in Old Wethersfield.

       He was dripping sweat, but he had a smile on his face.

       “[It feels] great,” Briggeman said of his latest accomplishment--the completion of the Keane Foundation’s 5K fundraising run. “I don’t feel great while I’m running, but when I finish I feel great.”

       Briggeman was not out of shape. In fact, it’s just the opposite. He’s done this a number of times--20 races this year, to be exact.

       A fellow runner, Tom Walsh, stood next to him. He said Briggeman has disciplined himself to run every day for the past 14 years.

       “I’ve only got 14 days in a row,” Walsh said. “To say it mildly, you’re looking at a living legend.”

       “At least in his own mind,” Briggeman added with a laugh.

       If he was looking for an extra spark last Sunday, June 1, veteran racers like Briggeman ran alongside Wethersfield elementary school students, many of whom are a part of the popular in-district running club open to kids in grades 3-6.

       “I really like this race because of the kids,” Briggeman said. “It’s a whole different spirit that others don’t have. There’s a joy those kids have that we don’t. We have it when we finish, they have it the whole day.”

       For the Wethersfield Early Childhood Collaborative (WECC), which published a study reporting a 30 percent obesity rate for children nationally, that’s some good news.

       “Getting the kids to enjoy running and being a part of a road race is contributing to their fitness,” said WECC member Kathy Bagley, who attended the event. “It’s a win/win for everybody.”

       That started with the establishment of the running club, courtesy of a $2,000 grant from the Central Connecticut Health District, at Wethersfield’s five elementary schools. The Keane Foundation provided funding, as well, mostly for T-shirts.

       This is the program’s first year and it already has around 180 students enrolled.

       “We were hoping we’d get 20 to 25 kids at each school, and it just took off,” Bagley said.

       The club, which ran for six weeks prior to the race, will have another six-week session in the fall before the Keane Foundation takes to Standish Park again for another 5K, according to Judy Keane, one of the Foundation’s organizers.

       “The kids will practice and learn how to hydrate and pace themselves,” Keane said. “They’re with their peers learning how to run.”

       And it’s not just for the kids. Tracy Bonvisuto, a Webb Elementary School parent, got in on the running club sessions in order to prepare for the 5K.

       “This is my second race and I really don’t know how to run,” Bonvisuto said after the race.

       She said she benefited from the lessons on stretching and, especially, pacing.

       “That was a good a good one for me,” she said with a laugh. “The goal was to make this run today, so mission accomplished--until the next race.”