Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Dashing through the Sand

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Dashing through the Sand

Article excerpt

SUMMER BEACH RUN

VENICE -- When Lauren Ham runs down the soccer field, she wears neon green cleats.

And when she runs with her mom, Stephanie, Lauren wears her bouncy, purple Adidas.

But when Lauren runs on the beach, she leaves her shoes behind. That way, the 12-year-old said, she can get her toes wet.

"I like running in water," she said. "I don't have to put in the effort to put shoes on."

The barefooted jogger was joined in her trek across South Brohard Beach on Wednesday evening by about 65 other giggling, scampering children. Gray skies and the threat of rain did not keep them from attending the kickoff event of Sarasota County's Kids' Summer Beach Runs program in Venice.

For a registration fee of $1, families will have two opportunities every week -- one at Siesta Beach and the other at South Brohard Beach - to bring their children to 1-mile-long runs through Aug. 12. Anyone younger than 18 years old can participate, said Diana Finnegan, a supervisor with Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources.

"We have parents pushing strollers. So we get them very young," she said. "We want to promote a healthy lifestyle."

The program has been going on for about 20 years, Finnegan said. But this year the beach runs have a new twist.

"We're adding themed activities," she said. "We want to give people a reason to come out every week."

Each week will have a theme -- examples include sports spectacular, flashback fun run and super hero week -- and corresponding activities, the details of which Finnegan would not divulge.

"I don't know if we want to give away any kind of surprises," she said. "Every week there's something different."

Sharks and minnows were this week's theme, and an artist painted children's faces before the run.

Finnegan said children who complete four runs will receive a free T-shirt and a voucher for 50 percent off a pair of New Balance children's shoes. At the end of every race, participants are rewarded with a ribbon and a free ice-pop.

Stephanie Ham said her children participated in all 10 beach runs last summer.

"The kids enjoy coming out in the evening to run on the beach and meet with their friends," she said. …

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