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Kids' Running Club

Jackson Cross Country and David YMCA Join Forces to Make Running Fun

Article by Brian Bailey

Photography by Terry Fravel

Originally published in Canton Lifestyle

For 15 years, a popular kid’s running club has offered training drills and running practice with an emphasis on fun.  What started as an idea between then employee of the Paul & Carol David YMCA, Pam Leddon, and Jackson High School Head Cross Country Coach, Kevin Walsh, the running club has seen more than 1,000 participants on local township fields.

Coach Walsh’s goal was to start a youth program that would foster interest in running, showcasing it as a sport. Not without coincidence, it has become a feeder program for the high school team he has led as head coach since 1997. The YMCA’s goal was to promote a healthy lifestyle for kids in the community. It’s safe to say both goals have been accomplished.

Coach Walsh says the format of each running club practice has remained the same over the years. A quick warm-up is followed by fun stretching, games built around running and often a relay race.

“We’re trying to teach the basics, like good form,” says Coach Walsh.

For the last three years, the program has been led by Coach Lauri Reed. A former high school sprinter herself, she is joined in the program by Coach Marty Clement. Marty is a former Jackson HS cross country alumnus, Class of 2000, currently training for a 100-mile endurance run.

About four years ago, Coach Marty moved back to the area from Chicago. “My first call after deciding to return was to Coach Walsh asking how I could get involved in the program,” says Marty.

There are four different running club sessions each year — winter, spring, summer and fall. Coach Lauri says her “goal is to get the kids fast and have fun running.” She often summons “Farmer Walsh” for a game of Sleeping Cow, Running Cow. It’s a stop and go, Simon says-style game that has kids running, stopping and of course, laughing.

Joining the coaches each week are a half dozen or so volunteer helpers from the high school cross country and track teams. Happy to share their knowledge and love for the sport, they also receive credit for the volunteer hours required for such clubs as National Honor Society, JAGS, Student Council and Key Club.

“It’s been rewarding to see the kids start as young as four or five years old, run competitively through middle school and high school, and give back to the program along the way,” says Coach Walsh. He’s also proud of the fact that they recently had a former runner bring their own child to the running club where she got her own start.

This year’s 4-week summer session had about 15 runners, ages four to 14, from Jackson and the surrounding areas. Some sessions will have up to 50 participants. The fall session will begin in early September and continue for six to seven weeks, culminating in a costumed “candy run.”

“That day is one of the kids’ favorites,” says Coach Walsh. He explained it was originally the high school volunteers who had the idea to dress in costume. “One year we had the world’s largest pumpkin at the event, so it’s a pretty big deal!”

For more information on the Jackson Kids Running Club and to register for the upcoming fall session, visit or