Caden’s Running Club

Discovery Park regroup on the bluff above Puget sound
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In the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree category:

Caden Ragsdale, son of ultra runner (and former ultra cyclist) Chris, is an eleven year old headed for the 6th grade.

At 10 years of age, Caden ran his first ultra--Sun Mountain 50k--in under 7 hours Credit: Glen Tachiyama
At 10 years of age, Caden ran his first ultra–Sun Mountain 50k–in under 7 hours Credit: Glen Tachiyama

In April, Caden ran the Deception Pass Marathon (5:41:21), and was following a training plan to get ready for the Sun Mountain 50k in May. In between the two events he was scheduled to spend four days at Camp Islandwood, and it was unclear whether he’d be able to follow his training plan while at camp. His dad advised him to find a creative solution that would address the limitations of the camp environment. For example, the students had to have an adult present at all times when they were outdoors.

Caden’s solution was to talk with a couple of his teachers, Carmen and Nicolette, who agreed to run with him before breakfast. The activity caught on: 12 other students joined the first run and it grew a little every day. Some of the other students joined because they wanted to support Caden training for Sun Mountain, and a few others joined because they like running as well.

Caden went on to finish the Sun Mountain 50k in 6:59:39.

Caden’s interest in ultra running began when he volunteered at an aid station at the 2016 and again in 2017 at the Bigfoot 200; he also worked an aid station this year. Now, having completed a marathon and a 50k, he’s looking for the next event in his progression: 40 or 50 miles.

Meanwhile, Caden and his dad have been participating in the weekly shop runs at Seven Hills Running Shop. Based on his experience at Islandwood and the Seven Hills shop runs, he thought it would be fun to start a summertime running club for kids and their parents. Caden made a chart of classmates he thought might be interested, and he printed flyers. His dad sent out emails.

The group started out with runners from Salmon Bay elementary, but soon had runners from Magnolia and even guests from Shanghai, China
The group started out with runners from Salmon Bay elementary, but soon had runners from Magnolia and even guests from Shanghai, China

The summertime running club started the first Tuesday in July at Discovery Park. After four weeks, the group had expanded to include 22 runners. The group splits into two speed-based groups with common meeting points. After the runs the group hangs out and socializes over watermelon, blueberries, and cold water.

Max feasting on post-run watermelon with a handful of back ups ready to go!
Max feasting on post-run watermelon with a handful of back ups ready to go!

This fall, Caden plans to compete in some cyclocross races (he started CX racing last year), as well as in the Emerald City XC League and possibly as a member of the Rain City Flyers cross country program. The Rain City Flyers program serves over 100 students ages 7 to 18 at Woodland Park. At a mere 2km, the XC races are significantly shorter than the ultras on which Caden has set his sights, but they do put him in a competitive environment. Plus he loves running on trails and up and down hills rather than on pavement or gravel: “Boring!”

Discovery Park regroup on the bluff above Puget sound
Discovery Park regroup on the bluff above Puget sound

This story is exciting for a couple reasons:

1. As a rule of thumb, projects like this that are initiated by students tend to generate more enthusiasm and participation than activities dreamed up by adults. Let’s hope we see Caden’s Running Club again in the summer of 2019!

Bonus: Although the idea for the running club was ostensibly about running and training, the social aspects are just as important. Current research shows that social networks have more influence on physical fitness and wellbeing than a focus on performance.

2. Whether you are 10 or 100, there is a substantial body of evidence supporting the benefits of aerobic activity on cognition. Aerobic activity enhances cognitive performance, creativity, and delays the cognitive decline process.

Despite the evidence linking physical activity and academic performance, most schools only fulfill the bare minimum requirements. Sad. Caden is lucky to be at a school and a neighborhood where the families are able to engage in this way. It’s not the case in too many other schools.

Caden’s tip for other kids interested in running: “Run when you can, walk when you have to.”

The 2018 edition of Caden’s Run Club was considered a huge success and Caden plans to organize it again next year.

Only a couple minutes after starting off at the Discovery park visitors center, the group has already stretched out.
Only a couple minutes after starting off at the Discovery park visitors center, the group has already stretched out.
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