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Kids run for  fun at Dundee  Middle School’s Midnight Mile

Updated: September 29, 2011 12:31AM

WEST DUNDEE — Most middle-school students dread running the mile in PE class. But not at Dundee Middle School.

About 350 students have signed up to run more than 15 miles over a 24-hour period at the school at 4200 W. Main St.

That’s all part of this year’s ninth Midnight Mile Run from 9 a.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday at the West Dundee middle school.

“I think that’s one of the coolest thing about Midnight Mile,” said Erin Frank, a PE teacher at the school.

Students in sixth through eighth grade train for eight weeks in order to participate in the event, which puts them in teams of 14 or 15 runners. Team members take turns running around the school’s mile-long track for 24 hours straight.

That works out to a mile every 90 minutes or so — an average of 15 miles throughout the course of the event, Frank said. That’s nearly a half-marathon. And there’s no walking allowed.

“It’s no joke. They need to be ready,” she said.

That’s why students are required to train at home for eight weeks. Each keeps a training log, which must be turned in every week, initialed by a parent to show it’s been completed, according to Frank.

Those training exercises start out easy enough to encourage even the most nervous runner — running two miles and walking for three, she said.

“Anybody can run,” she said. “You don’t need a special skill set. You don’t need to be the best shooter on the basketball court. As long as you have the capability of putting one foot in front of the other, you can do this event.”

By the end of the eight weeks, students must be able to run for 36 minutes straight.

The goals of the Midnight Mile are to encourage students to take on a challenge, set goals and follow through on them and encourage healthy habits, according to Frank.

It’s not to raise money — not like “Hoops for Heart” or any of Dundee Middle School’s other fundraisers, she clarified. The school explores the idea of turning it into a fundraiser every year, she said, but that “would really kind of change the whole focus of the event, because that’s doing it for a charity, rather than doing something to challenge yourself and push yourself.”

The PE teacher said the idea for the event came nine years ago from a middle school in Crystal Lake, where its PE teacher was “always looking for ways for kids to become more fit by challenging themselves on a daily basis.” One of those ways was a 24-hour run — something Frank said Dundee Middle School thought it’d try.

The Midnight Mile had about 200 participants its first year and “it gets better every year,” Frank said.

“I feel like it’s created a culture of running here at DMS. It’s a cool thing to be a good runner.”

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