On Saturday morning, Oct. 28, three school buses carrying over 100 children and adults will arrive at the D.C. Armory for the Marine Corps Marathon. Students carrying signs and shouting chants will file out of the buses and line up for the marathon's children's race, a 1-mile Healthy Kids Fun Run. Teachers are hoping that Lynbrook Elementary will, for the fifth year in a row, win the title for having the greatest number of students participating in the race.
More than 100 students have signed up for the marathon, said physical education teacher Jed Bobier. As a new teacher at the school, he has been preparing for his first Marine Corps Marathon event.
"I really like traditions, and it's rare to find a strong tradition in an elementary school," said Bobier. "I keep telling the kids, this is something you'll never forget."
WHEN LYNBROOK began putting together a team of students five years ago, only 15 to 20 students signed up for the mile-long run, Bobier said. Even with a small group, the school was recognized for having the most students participate. Each year, more students have signed up, but Bobier said other schools are beginning to challenge their reign.
"Cardinal Forest has been sending bigger groups," he said. "Plus, the teacher that I replaced just moved to the new Eagle View School in Fairfax, so he might be putting together a big team too. We won't know until after the race is done."
Fellow physical education teacher Richard Dexter said Lynbrook won't know if it had the largest group of students for a few days after the race.
"We'll make sure our presence is felt," Dexter said. Students will carry five different banners, one for each year the school has been in the race. They'll be shouting out chants that were written for the event and wearing matching green shirts, signed by the students who wore them in the past.
"There's a real connection to the school with those shirts," said Dexter. Students receive their own shirt for participating in the event, but wear the matching green tie-dyed shirts to make it easier to find them at the finish line.
The importance of running the race is more about having fun and getting exercise than in who wins, Dexter said.
"The more times we get them up and moving, the better," he said.
Not even the early start time has deterred children from signing up. Students have to arrive at the school on Saturday by 6:30 a.m. for the trip into Washington, D.C. for the 8 a.m. race.
"We figure it's better for them to be up and doing something than lying around the house watching cartoons," Dexter said.
And the students agree.
Caren Espinoza ran in the marathon last year and said she had a lot of fun, other than the hills.
"I've never seen anything like that before, there's so many people," Caren said.
She signed up to run this year to help her school keep their title.
"I like to run and it's good to get away from home," she said. "And I like that you get to see your friends outside of school."
Emmelyn Chapilliquen said she signed up to run because her friends signed up.
"I want to help the team," she said. "I think I'll be able to run the whole race, it'll probably be crowded. I really just want to have fun."
Otoniel Pereira has been running the race since he was in fourth grade. The seasoned veteran, now in sixth grade, said he enjoys the workout of running.
"There's practically nothing to do on weekends and I don't mind getting up that early," he said.
Melissa Lazarte has also signed up for the marathon the past two years.
"There are certain physical challenges we're supposed to do every day to get ready for the race," she said. "We have a paper with different exercises to help us."
Her advice to other racers is to be sure to eat a good breakfast before getting on the bus.
"It's really not about who wins, it's more about fun," Otoniel said. "It's a good feeling of achievement when you finish."
Carolina Arebalo is nervous for her first race.
"I think it'll be fun and I like to run a lot," she said. "I'm really excited for the race."
"I told some friends to sign up with me," said Jonathan Ramos. "I like feeling like I accomplished something when the race is done. It's scary to run with so many people and there's Marine's telling us to hurry."
For Phillip Allen Perry, his main goal is bringing home a trophy.
"I want to win a medal or trophy so bad," said Phillip, who has been in the race a few times. "I want to run with the Marines to see how good I am. It's going to be really hard, I think there will be a lot of fast runners."
WHILE PREPARING in their physical education classes, Bobier said the students have been becoming more excited for the race.
"It's amazing," he said. "If you think about it, 100 kids signed up, which is about one-third of the population at this school. I really hope no one else has 100 kids."
Currently, the school allows children in third through sixth grades to sign up for the race, although Bobier thinks younger children would run if given the chance.
"We also have teacher and parent chaperones, we try to have about 10 kids per adult," he said.
Children who can't run the entire mile are encouraged to walk, Bobier said, the important thing is getting them active and out with their friends.