A popular weekly summer activity for area kids and their families is back, with the 38th season of the Greater Derry Track Club (GDTC) Summer Fun Runs taking place Thursday evenings at Pinkerton Academy.
The season began June 25 and continued July 2, bringing out more than 440 competitors.
Large crowds showed up both evenings, and the community support of the program got off to a great start, with 370 pounds of non-perishable food donated – the third highest total donated on an opening night in the last 10 years.
On July 2, the registrants brought 352 more pounds of food.
Registrants at each of the Thursday night fun runs are asked to bring a non-perishable food item as their registration fee; the food is donated to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Food Pantry in Derry.
Londonderry youngsters claimed impressive top-three finishes in their respective divisions on both evenings.
At the July 2 race, Michaela Horan took a third among the 9-year-old girls, Grace McDonough was second among the 11-year-old girls, Caley McDonough snared second among the 12-year-old females, and former Londonderry High School cross-country and track and field standout Damon Kilgore was the male winner of the open mile.
Londonderry runners had also done themselves plenty proud on opening night June 25.
In the 9-year-old boys’ class, Londonderry’s Jonah Patles snared second place among the boys. In 11-year-old competition, Grace McDonough snagged second among the young ladies. Caley McDonough won the girls’ 12-year-old race, and in the open mile, Londonderry residents Zach Ford and Avery Bonanno took first and second respectively.
Registration begins at 6 p.m. each Thursday, with the races starting at 6:30 p.m. Future summer fun runs are July 9, 16, 23, and 30.
Each week, the children are led in stretching exercises and given running tips by Greater Derry Track Club members. Then the 2- and 3-year-olds run 50 meters, ages 4 to 6 run 200 meters, ages 7 and 8 cover 300 meters, 9- and 10-year-olds do 600 meters, and the 11 to 13s run a cross-country mile. Youngsters older than 14 run an open mile on the track, and that race often brings out elite high school runners from the area.
Children receive participation ribbons each week, supplied by the Derry Recreation Department. Water, Gatorade, and watermelon are also supplied each week. Runners who complete the entire series will receive both medallions and T-shirts from the Greater Derry Track Club.