Stationed along the route, the Grade 7 and 8 students from Ottawa Christian School (OCS) cheered on the hundreds of young participants in this year’s Pumpkin Run.
Support also came from parents and teachers, like OCS’ Stuart McGregor who was the pace runner for the day. The Paralympian who leads the school’s running club offered lots of smiles and advice as he led the children around the course on the windy and cold morning of Oct. 16.
“He’s an inspiration,” organizer and fellow OCS teacher Karin Rusthoven says. “Students really look up to him and admire him. He’s great at coaching and giving them advice and finding their strengths as runners.”
At the end of the non-competitive, cross-country run, every participant received a pumpkin – a tradition stretching back years as part of a spirited event begun by an OCS teacher and running coach. It continues this day to be an inspirational experience.
“I think people see it as a very inclusive run,” Rusthoven says, explaining the event’s continued popularity. This year alone, it attracted 820 student aged seven to 13 from 15 private, independent schools in the region.
The Pumpkin Run “is not meant to be for the fastest of the fastest runners,” Rusthoven says, but an opportunity for children to be active early in the school year and give cross-country running a try.
Along the way, they may learn some lessons about life.
“There are some schools that bring along 100 students – every child they’re teaching – because they see it as an opportunity for them to get active,” Rusthoven notes.
“Some of these students really don’t enjoy running, but they still go along and they’re encouraged and they do finish it. And I’m hoping they see that as an accomplishment,” she says. “I hope they do come away saying, ‘Yeah, I did accomplish something difficult … and if I can do this, who knows what else I can do?’”
The support, like that offered by the OCS students along the route, reinforces appreciation and acceptance of others – one of the goals of Christ-centred education.
“Since we’re the only Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools school involved, it’s important that our kids represent who we are, that our kids represent good sportsmanship … and people who are encouraging to anyone regardless of whether they’re from our school or not,” Rusthoven says.
The Pumpkin Run has steadily grown over the years, each year seeming to welcome another school on board, and support from the OCS community has remained steadfast. Rusthoven, who took over the organizing reins about eight years ago, says parents assist behind the scenes. One parent has coached while another has helped with organizing for years and always starts off the run.
“We have really supportive parents,” Rusthoven says.
Many parents come on run day to watch and offer support. Rusthoven estimates that more than 1,000 people attended during the course of this year’s Pumpkin Run.