By Diane M. Rey | The Capital | capitalgazette.com | September 28, 2012
Jon Brianas wants to inspire young runners to reach for more than just medals and trophies.
On Sunday, he gave a pep talk and led warm-up exercises to kick off a new six-week running clinic to encourage more youth to participate in the upcoming Ripley Race and promote its message of public service.
"This is an opportunity to connect the youth in our community to our nation's veterans and the sacrifices they make for our freedoms while encouraging children to participate in a healthy and active lifestyle," Brianas, race co-founder, said in a release.
The 5K road race honors the memory of Col. John W. Ripley, who became a legend in the Marine Corps following his heroic actions at the Dong Ha Bridge during the Vietnam War. His feat of hanging under the bridge while being fired upon to place the explosives that destroyed it, stopping the enemy's advance, is captured in a diorama in Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy.
Col. Ripley's son, Tom Ripley, of Annapolis, who also served as an officer in the Marine Corps, spoke at the running clinic kickoff.
"The whole race experience has been amazing. It's a great opportunity to remember my dad and what he taught me at this age," he said.
The 30 young runners ages 6 to 12 who signed up for the clinic will learn the fundamentals of racing and training, including form and pacing. Most wore bright yellow T-shirts reading, "Learn to Run, Learn to Honor, Learn to Support." After warm ups, they ran a mile on the track at the Bates Athletic Complex under a bright blue sky.
Katie Ericson, 10, a fifth-grader at Rolling Knolls Elementary, was the first to finish, with a time of 7:53. A member of the school's Girls on the Run team, she ran the track alongside her mother, Beth Ericson.
"When I win races, it makes me feel good," said Katie, who was the fastest participant in her age group at last year's Ripley Race. Her sister, Sarah, 6, is also participating in the clinic.
Clinic running coach Susan Noble said the trick to get kids hooked on running is to make it fun. "Otherwise half of them would be home with their iPods or watching TV. That's the biggest battle, getting them away from the screens."
The fourth annual Ripley Race will begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 4 at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. There is a 1-mile fun run as well as the 5K for youth and adults. The route winds through the Naval Academy and the Annapolis historic district. A post-race party is planned at Fado Irish Pub.
Proceeds from the race have raised more than $90,000 for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Last year, 1,000 participants turned out.
For more information about the race, please visit the Ripley Race website.