CRYSTAL LAKE – Katy Newton went for a jog Thursday afternoon and decided to keep running – until Friday afternoon.
Newton and 406 of her schoolmates at Lundahl Middle School participated in the 15th annual 24-Hour Challenge that pushed students to run in shifts with 11 or 12 teammates around the school’s track from 3 p.m. Thursday to 3 p.m. Friday.
Students ran 1 mile at a time before passing the baton to a teammate and continuing the pattern. Each runner had roughly an hour and a half break in between miles.
Newton, an eighth-grader, said that after three years of participating in the event, she has learned more than the pain of sore legs and effects of sleep deprivation from physical education teacher Fred Kaiser’s annual challenge.
“It has taught me a lot about myself,” Newton said. “I especially like that [Kaiser] talks about commitment to integrity. It reminds me to do something good today and every day. You don’t want to bail out on doing what it takes to be a better person.”
Newton is one of the many students Kaiser has influenced with the event he started to teach four basic principles. Kaiser said he talks every year about the willingness to risk, a commitment to integrity, and the determination to stand up, as well as about instilling a sense of passion.
Those four values are taught throughout the process as students are required to train outside of school and log their runs. Kaiser said each student must complete a 2.5-mile run and show improved results with each logged run during the six-week period.
If a student forgets to turn in a weekly report, they cannot participate, he said.
“We want them to understand how to overcome obstacles in their lives,” Kaiser said. “It’s amazing what these kids can do.”
The growing influence of the event is easy to see as close to 50 percent of the school signs up for the voluntary challenge – a significant growth from the 110 students who participated the first year.
Ron Eberle, who was volunteering at the event, said his third and final child was participating in the challenge, and it has made a difference in all of their lives.
“It’s awesome to see middle school kids set goals and work to achieve them,” Eberle said. “That’s not always normal to see in kids that age.”
Even Kaiser has been surprised with the success event, noting that Lundahl alumni come back to participate in the run. This year, Kaiser said he received an email from a former student that reinforced his passion for teaching.
“As an adult now looking back, without this unique experience, I’m not sure I would have developed the skill set needed to take on these challenging life events,” wrote Kailee Kruse, who planned to attend before suffering an ankle injury. “It changed my life.”