Image demonstrating Olympic runner opens new school track

Olympic runner opens new school track

Olympian Laura Weightman has visited a school near her Northumberland family home, to officially open a new running track which will help children there keep up their ‘Daily Mile’ during the winter months.

Laura had just returned from achieving a personal best and setting the third best time ever for a British female 5,000 metre runner in the World Athletics Championships.

All pupils from years one to six at Whittingham Primary School have been taking part in the Daily Mile initiative for almost two years now, using the school field. During winter months a grass surface is not always ideal and so the school and the parent-teacher association decided to raise funds to have a track installed. 

The children helped out by bag packing at their local Morrisons supermarket to help the fundraising get underway and parents, friends of the school and the local community also sponsored materials for the track.  

Children in years five and six were learning about inspirational sports people and local people who have achieved particularly highly in the world of sport.  They decided to write to Laura via her parents, who only live around 10 miles from the school. 

Laura was training in America but her Mum kindly contacted her, telling her of the letters the pupils had written, and she made time in her busy schedule after the recent World Championships to officially open the running track (on Friday 11 October).

Laura Weightman said:  “The Daily Mile is a great opportunity for the children to have their own personal activity challenge, that isn’t a competition. It is a daily challenge they can set themselves to run just that bit further or to match the distance they ran the day before.  

“It’s also a fantastic way for children to understand from an early age why it is important to be active and the health and fitness benefits it brings.” 

Head teacher, Belinda Athey said: “We run the Daily Mile first thing in the morning. When we first started, around 18 months ago, many of the children and staff couldn’t even run a lap. Now we are all noticeably much fitter. 

“It has had a really positive impact across the school. The children are happier to come to school and are alert and invigorated and engaged in learning straight after doing their run.

“The improved fitness has had a knock on effect on the performance of our school sports teams too, as the children now have much more stamina.  I think it’s a great initiative and something that every school should do.”

Councillor Veronica Jones, cabinet member for wellbeing and health at Northumberland County Council added:  “Developing their own track is a great initiative by a relatively small rural school. The whole school community has worked hard to make sure that the children have facilities they need to build and develop their fitness, and in turn gain all of the associated benefits of the Daily Mile.”

The Daily Mile is a social physical activity, with children running or jogging – at their own pace – in the fresh air with friends. Children can occasionally walk to catch their breath, if necessary, are encouraged to aim to run or jog for a full 15 minutes.  Around 40 schools in Northumberland are taking part in the initiative.
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