Locals should put their racing shoes on: the annual Run for the Schools event is back for its 19th consecutive year.
Often referred to as the “most family-friendly event” in the Little City, Run for the Schools was created by the Falls Church Education Foundation (FCEF) to act as a fundraiser for the foundation, while also serving the public as a physically active community event.
This year’s event will celebrate the 75th year of City of Falls Church by highlighting the history of the city and its schools. FCEF’s executive director Debbie Hiscott said focusing on the city’s successes will be a key feature in this year’s race.
This is also the second year Run for the Schools will be teaming up with Ainsley’s Angels of America, an organization that works with athletes who aren’t physically able to run the course and have able-bodied participants pushing them in racing chairs to the finish line.
“It’s creating community and community connection,” Hiscott said when asked about why locals should participate in Run for the Schools. “You read a lot about loneliness these days in particular… this is a time where there’s a great pool of humanity there.”
Run for the Schools was created by Jerry Barrett, a “huge” community activist and runner who wanted to “do something” that recognized the location of the city’s schools. What began as a simple running event with “fewer than” 50 participants has since grown year after year with added activities such as face-painting, games and a moonbounce.
The event hosts two different kinds of races; one being a 5K and the other being a one mile “fun run.” The 5K consists of a “loop” around the city’s schools, while the fun run has participants walking/running through the city’s streets. Each city school mascot and the cheerleading team cheer participants on until they step over the finish line.
People of all ages and areas are encouraged to participate in the event, with Hiscott saying that the race sees many repeat runners who come from “really far away” due to its entertainment value. Awards are given to runners in the 5K: $100 are given to the fastest male and female, while prizes are donated by local businesses to winners of each age category.
“It’s a nice community event for families to come to because it’s kind of fun to walk or run down streets that you normally drive through,” FCEF’s director of development Suzanne Hladky said. “You have friends that come out of their driveways and wave at you because you’re going right by their street, so that’s fun for everybody.”
Funds raised by the event go toward supporting Falls Church City Public Schools, such as the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), special education and teacher recognition programs, and grants such as teacher training, innovation and family assistance. The race is also a USA Track & Field (USATF) certified course, which means if a runner participates in the event, they can count their time toward their standings in the organization.
“I think we really try to help push this event for folks to get really integrated and see their friends again or people that they haven’t seen in a while,” Hladky said. “I feel like it solidifies [people’s] decision to move here when they come to this event.”