Several years ago, I read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods and was inspired to make even greater efforts to interest my grandchildren in nature; since that time, we have spent countless hours engaged in such activities as walking the labyrinths at Sibley Regional Park (Oakland), wading ankle-deep in the mudflats at Crab Cove (Alameda), and running alongside the foamy ocean waves at Marine Headlands (Marin County).
I believe that it’s critical to the health and well-being of our children that our communities get involved in supporting such activities — otherwise the nation’s obesity rate for children and such disorders as attention deficit will only continue to rise. Some people have forgotten how important it is to play; some don’t realize how easy it is to do!
Therefore, it’s affirming to take note of the many efforts afloat to engage our children in healthful outdoor activities. One excellent example of what parents and other interested adults can do was the recent Oakland Running Festival, which was held March 26 & 27. The five events: a full marathon, half marathon, 4-person relay, 5 K twilight run, and Kids’ Fun Run meant that everyone could participate. And 7,300 — making it a sold out event — did!
The newly launched organization, Running for a Better Oakland, played an important role in this year’s contests. With a small amount of money (about $5,000 in donations), and a great deal of enthusiasm, Running for a Better Oakland set out to get as many kids running in the races as possible. Participants learned that a race, particularly a lengthy one, is about more than running. The adult runner mentors organized weekly runs and gave advice on what to eat (bananas, peanut butter on toast, oatmeal) and what not to eat (doughnuts and pancakes), how to stretch, and the importance of hydrating, pacing, teamwork, self-confidence and achieving goals.
It wasn’t only the participants who benefited: festival promoters, Corrigan Sports Enterprises, released a report from the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University in Maryland giving an estimate of $3 million added revenue brought to Oakland’s stores, hotels, restaurants, transit and entertainment venues not only by the participants, but also by their friends and families who accompanied them.
Team sponsors were rewarded, too, if you count intrinsic rewards. A prime example would be Scott Cole & Associates, an Oakland-based law firm that promised to pay the entry fees for all participants on the Bentley (School) Team. Their team had the highest participation rate of any team — an amazing 125 entrants — and also raised $15,000 in donations for their school.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for one-time events that showcase fitness or seeking outdoor activities that you and your children can do on a regular basis, the greater Bay Area offers countless opportunities. Be well!
Soon, an update on the April 30, 2011 Ridge to Bridge Trail event sponsored by Bay Area Ridge Trail. Openings remain for the “Families Run.” Families with children under the age of 10 can enjoy a kid-friendly 4-mile hike with a National Park Service Ranger to the Beach and back to lunch.