GREENVILLE — It rained early on Sunday and it rained late.
The rain did hold off for the most important part of the day. The pause in the rain coincided with the running of the fifth annual Yellow Jacket Challenge in Greenville.
The Yellow Jacket Challenge is held to celebrate healthy lifestyles and raise money for wellness programs and initiatives through the Education Foundation of Greenville.
A record 534 participants took part in the 5K, one mile walk and youth fun runs. There were 383 runners and 151 walkers on Sunday. That topped the 2010 record of 466 participants and was nearly 100 more than the 436 participants that braved the cold and snowy conditions of a year ago.
“The weather was certainly troublesome, but radar continued to show an afternoon clearing with warm temps so that kept everyone’s hopes up for a promising day,” race director Penny Dora said of the possibility of rain. “Thankfully, the predicted forecast held true.”
Dora in her second year as race director said the event ran smoothly on Sunday.
“I continue to be amazed and impressed by the number of people that are dedicated to this event. There are so many volunteers, both adults and students, who make this happen,” she said. “We had over 125 people on hand to take care of every detail. We received many compliments from participants about the organization of the event. That would absolutely not happen without the 125 people that do the work, weeks ahead of time and on the day of the event.”
The Yellow Jacket Challenge has been the motivation for the beginning of many youth running clubs and even part of a high school physical education curriculum.
Central Montcalm P.E. teacher John Johnson has worked training to run a 5K and other physical events into his class.
“We tried to up the the ante in P.E. class a little bit,” Johnson said. “We tried to make it more challenging for the kids. They bucked it a little bit to start the year, but we kept to the grind and working hard.”
The class has been following the Fifth Third Bank River Run training chart to help prepare for this race.
“We implemented the training in class. Kids are showing lots of weight loss, great pride in going faster and further and they are totally into it now,” Johnson said. “In this case more was better by increasing the rigor. We are excited and this is a step in the right direction.”
Johnson had 10 participants — including himself — in the Yellow Jacket Challenge. Other potential events for students will include the River Bank Run and events like the Relay for Life.
Another group of runners were from Walnut Hills Elementary. Seven runners from the school took part in the event.
“We started running the first week of October and then took the winter off,” club director Nikki Parris said. “We started running again in February on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We started walking and gradually moved up from there. We just recently started running three miles.”
Walnut Hills student Brooklyn Poole enjoyed her race.
“It was fun. I think I got just more than 30 minutes,” Poole said. “That was right around my goal. I liked the finish on the track today in front of the big crowd.”
“I am thrilled to have the running clubs involved in the Yellow Jacket Challenge. This event is dedicated to creating healthy lifestyles and stressing the importance of exercise and physical fitness,” Dora said. “Statistics show the earlier in life these habits are formed, the greater the benefits of good health. Our youngest runner was 5 years old. One third of our total runners were 18 and younger and a large majority of these students are involved in running clubs. These kids should be very proud of their accomplishment.”
The 2013 Yellow Jacket Challenge is set for the second Sunday in April once again.
“On behalf of the Education Foundation of Greenville and Greenville Public Schools, I extend my sincere thanks to the sponsors, community partners, and participants who support the Yellow Jacket Challenge,” Dora said. “It is an honor to work with them and serve as their race director.”