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Healthy Kids Running Series

A Non-profit to Run With

“Charlie has loved running ever since he was old enough to run away from me,” said Jennifer Knapp of her four-year-old son. “He’s always been pure energy and a bit of a competition nut, and he loves playing soccer and baseball.”

“And football!” added Charlie with more enthusiasm than I have ever heard during my career interviewing business owners. “And T-ball!” Charlie proceeded to inform his mother that the household was undergoing a severe shortage of sidewalk chalk, and also that his father had unjustly limited the size of the stone with which he could play hopscotch. Jennifer assured Charlie that the universe has a way of sorting problems like these out, and that he should continue playing. The hyperkinetic thumping of size 4T shoes faded away as Jennifer continued our call.

“We entered Charlie in the Healthy Kids Running Series in Woodbury during the summer of 2020 as a way to burn up even more of that youthful energy. He loved it so much, but as Eden Prairie residents we didn’t really enjoy spending that much time on 494.

“I looked for a race closer to home but couldn’t find one, so I called the Healthy Kids Running Series national office to ask if they could begin a chapter somewhere in the west metro. It wasn’t long afterward until my husband Jeromy and I became community coordinators for the newly founded Eden Prairie chapter.

“The Healthy Kids Running Series gives children aged two to 14 the opportunity to compete in footraces against their peers – and I use the word ‘compete’ loosely. When they’re too young to have gone to kindergarten, we only keep track of where they place. We begin timing them when they’re older, and the results are amazing. By the end of the five-week program, many children have shaved 20 to 30 seconds off their first race time. But however well a child does, we always give them encouragement and a medal for all their hard work.

“The length of a Healthy Kids Running Series course depends on the participant’s age as well. Two-and-three-year-olds run a 50-yard dash, and children in fourth through eighth grade run a full mile. We know that running in a circle is tedious, even with our adult attention spans, so we lay out our courses on a single path. When we meet at Staring Lake Park we start at the lacrosse field, go through the disc golf course, wind around the Green Acres Event Center, and finally return to the finish line back where we started.

“We also know that running on concrete can have disastrous implications for a little kid who hasn’t quite finished fine-tuning their motor skills. That’s why everyone runs on grass, cross country style. Just last week I saw an adorable toddler do a massive faceplant, but she got back up and kept on running with a big smile across her face. My ‘mom sense’ was so relieved!

“And you know, little moments like those are what make the Healthy Kids Running Series so rewarding for children. Kids who used to get frustrated soon learn to just give every race everything they’ve got as they foster their senses of determination and accomplishment. Little ones like my Charlie learn that sports aren’t all about winning. They’re about cheering others on and lifting them up, making great new friends, and living a healthy lifestyle together. (Of course, if Charlie ever gets drafted by the Vikings, I’ll remind him that sports are in fact about winning sometimes, too.)

“Every race has amazing energy. We have moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and even teachers show up to root for every kid until they cross the finish line. Each week’s event has its own theme to make it more exciting, too. For our first week of the spring series everyone dressed up in rainbow colors. On the second week we partnered with Bachman's, who graciously gave all the moms pink carnations on Mother’s Day. Matt Rosen of Sergeant Shortbread donated his indescribably good cookies, and Eden Prairie Lifestyle, which I believe you’re already familiar with, gave out gift cards.

“Week three was animal costumes, and week four was superhero and princess week. It was so much fun to see so many tiny Batmans and Elsas bolting toward the finish line, and members of the Eden Prairie Police Department and the Eden Prairie Fire Department came to represent the real-life heroes. Our final race was sponsored by Universal Pictures – ‘The Minion Fun Run,’ to celebrate the release of Minions: The Rise of Gru!

“I’m a huge advocate for mental health, and physical and emotional health are both great parts of it. I love how the Healthy Kids Running Series strengthens all three by creating an environment where children can truly grow while succeeding at something. I love the sense of community it creates for everyone who gets involved, and I cherish all the friends I have made while attending these events.

“And, admittedly, I also love how much racing tires out Charlie. I’m not the first or last mom to appreciate a slightly less energetic preschooler. And now that my little Leo is two years old, he can race just like his big brother … sort of. Still getting the footwork down!”

The next five-week Healthy Kids Running Series program will commence mid-September this year. You may register your children at You may also contact Jennifer directly at or (651) 283-1729 if you have any questions before you enter your little Steve Prefontaine in the making.

If you have the next best thing to a child – a business – then you also have the opportunity to sponsor this fine non-profit organization. In addition to this very magazine, the Eden Prairie Healthy Kids Running Series is proud to receive support from these companies:

• Giant                                         • USA Track & Field Foundation     • Stride Rite
• Omega Chiropractic                  • Youth Runner Magazine              • RunDoyen
• Texas Beef Council                   • DrinkFit                                        • Natural Grocers
• Card My Yard – Eden Prairie    • Lidl                                               • SCHEELS
• Eden Prairie Parks & Rec         • Sergeant Shortbread                   • Universal Pictures