Students at the Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet School have hit the ground running thanks to a program started last year by teacher Bonnie Richardson.

The idea to start a running club came to Richardson last year after receiving information on the Louisiana Kids Marathon.

The children had to log 25 miles before the marathon. The day of the race, they would run the last 1.2 miles to complete the marathon.

She encouraged her students to compete, but soon realized there were few places for them to run.

“Some of my students came to me and asked where they could run,” she said. “I told them of some high school tracks and realized that getting to the tracks would be a big obstacle for many of them.”

She sought the help of the school’s principal, asking if she could stay after school one day a week to help the students log the 25 miles.

After months of logging miles, 22 students ran the 1.2 miles during the Louisiana Kids Marathon, she said.

“I had 75 students show up the first Tuesday afternoon of my running program,” she said. “I was overwhelmed at first, but looked at this as a great opportunity for my program.”

Prekindergarteners through fifth-graders walked or ran for an hour as part of the Tuesday afternoon running club.

“My rules were simple: You are here to walk and run; if I have to talk to you twice, you are gone,” she said.

A few parents volunteered to help, she said.

Each time a student completed a lap, he or she would get a stick from Richardson or one of the parent volunteers. After the student collected 10 sticks, the student “would come to me and trade his/her sticks for a mark on the hand.”

“When the hour was over, I would blow my whistle, have the students line up in their grade lines and record how many laps each student did,” she said.

In early January, Richardson held an award ceremony to honor the 75 students who ran on Tuesday afternoons.

Students received a small, plastic “foot” on a chain for each 5 miles run and the student from each grade who logged the most miles received a Golden Shoe Award.

“I did highlight both kindergarten classes with a Golden Shoe because of their dedication and enthusiasm,” she said.

First-grader Brody Cowan and Alex Martinez, a fourth-grader, ran their 25 miles at school and received “gold feet” awards. Golden Shoe Award winners were Leo Schogel, Austin Martinez, Cowan, Estrella Vasquez, Gracie Reounodji, Alex Martinez and Courtlin Baunchand.

In the end, the students logged 952.5 miles.

“My students did a wonderful job running many miles and they all had smiles on their faces,” she said. “It was wonderful.”