The Jingle Bell Jog on Saturday was a day for running in Santa outfits, wearing reindeer antlers, celebrating the joy of the season and raising funds for NYRR’s youth programs. The kids were out in force, and many are a force to be reckoned with. Some of you TFKers may remember Jiovanni, the 12-year old boy who spoke at the beginning of our last practice, the Light up the Night in Central Park. He’s a pee wee, but fast! I found out just how fast at the Jingle Bell Jog. There I was at mile 2, chugging along when I heard a little voice say, “Hi Gail!” I looked to my right and there was Jio, not even tired or pushing hard. In fact, he stayed at my side for almost a mile, chatting me up and giving me advice. Really? I tried to save face by keeping up with him but he was killing me! Finally, he spotted a teammate a few yards in front of us and like a true competitor, chased him down. Phew! I could finally get back to my own pace.
I caught up with him in the last few yards heading up the hill to the finish. Now it was my turn! I came alongside him and said, “You better kick it in now or you’ll be crossing the finish line next to me!” That’s all it took. He bolted like a bullet and crossed the finish in 32:59. I heard him tell his coach that he beat me. When we caught up together, we shared a laugh and I told him how proud I was of him.
And I am proud of Jio and all the kids in our youth running programs who – thanks to your fundraising and support - are learning to be accomplished runners. Not only is Jio learning how to be a good runner, his manners and social skills are better than some adult runners! I can’t help but think that’s partly due to the exposure he gets through the events he attends through NYRR and his task as a Youth Ambassador – along with his parents and coaches who are in full support of his running.
There are many Jio’s out there in need of our free youth running programs. As passionate runners who are fortunate to have had running in our lives, let’s make it our mission to support all the future Jios and give them the gift of running this season.