The Extra Mile Fitness Company “One Mile Challenge” was the place to be for runners of all ages on a beautiful Thursday night. Doubling their participation from last year with 560 runners, Extra Mile celebrated the three year anniversary of their store’s opening. Running a flat, loop mile course through Valparaiso University’s campus in a WAVE start race, participants were able to enjoy competition in a fun atmosphere.
However, running wasn’t the only thing the night had to offer. Food, vendors, prizes, music and more waited for the runners at the finish line, adding to the electrifying atmosphere of the event. With food provided by Firehouse Subs and Leroy’s and wine provided by Running Vines, both runners and supporters could enjoy a meal with their friends and family. Sponsors including Saucony, Asics, New Balance, and Brooks also came to the event providing games as well as an opportunity to try out their running shoes.
Natalie Gruska, a Valparaiso High School cross country runner and winner of the high school girls division said, “I really love how we are all here as a team. We were stretching and cheering even as we ran. I know we are all in a lot of pain while we run but we’re all cheering and it really encourages you to keep going because you know all your teammates are there with you.”
To make the event even better, the top three High School boys and girls teams with the most participants received either $500, $250, or $100 for their cross country programs. Heather Henderlong, co-owner of Extra Mile explained, “We wanted to do something to give back. This is right about the time all the cross country programs kick-off. We thought this would be a good way for all the high schools to come together as a team, do a fun event, and base the award on them coming together as participants.”
Out of six high schools participating from Valparaiso to Kankakee Valley, the Valpo girls came out on top. Chesterton finished in second and Portage came out third. In the boys competition, Valpo also came out on top with thirty-two competitors, followed by Lake Central and Portage. Coach Crague of Valparaiso said, “We do a team camp every year and we’ll be going there real soon. We have almost sixty guys on the team this year so the money will go to defray some of the costs. All the money will go right back to the kids.”
Combining boys and girls for the Middle School prize, the school bringing in the most participants received $250 for their cross country program. Out of ten middle schools participating, Morgan Township had ten athletes at the event, earning them the prize money.
Talking to both children and adults, it is clear that fun has no age limit when you are at an Extra Mile event. Joe Betz, winner of the 60 and up division said, “I like Extra Mile and all the things they do for the community. I really like this organization. It’s the only mile race around. They do a great job with the little kids and they’ve worked their butts off.”
One unique aspect of the event was the multitude of children running. With over eighty runners under the age of ten, it is clear that Extra Mile is doing its part to promote a healthy lifestyle. For most of those kids, the race was long awaited. After three weeks of training with a kids camp put on by Extra Mile, all the children got to show off their hard work.
Kelley Chevalier, mother of two of the kids camp participants, said, “I’ve always been a runner, so my kids have gone to races, but the camp gave them an organized training. It was a fun thing to do on a summer night and get them off the couch.”
Whether you were sprinting to the finish line or there to support family and friends, the 1 Mile Challenge truly was a fun-filled night. Both volunteers and employees went the extra mile to put on the event, and their work truly paid off. Once again, the Extra Mile Fitness Company proved that you can still have fun while being healthy.