When Martians invade Dearborn on April 14, scores of students from Lanigan Elementary School in Farmington Hills will be among them.
The annual Martian Marathon and Mini-Martian for kids are organized by Running Fit, as a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training Michigan chapter. Lanigan parent Sara Bowman has participated in the run, with her son running the "mini", and wanted to find a way to get other kids involved.
With the full support of Principal Robert Kauffman, she contacted Running Fit, and company president Randy Step came out to inspire the students.
"He did a pep rally and we opened it up to the whole school," Bowman said. "I thought maybe 20 kids would show up."
Now, about 180 students, from kindergarten to fourth grade, show up at twice weekly practices to run around the parking lot after school. Parents volunteer to help the kids keep track of how many laps they've done and to keep the practice running smoothly.
Kids earn charms for every five miles they've completed, and they'll receive a medal when they complete the Martian Mini-Marathon. Bowman said students were very excited about the medals at the kick-off in January, but the charms are also a great motivator.
"It's tangible for them," she said. "I think some of them have forgotten about the medal."
Parents have been very supportive and don't seem to mind having to pick up their children late in the afternoon, Bowman said.
"I think parents see the benefit," she said. "This is going to help the kids in whatever they choose to do, because running is a part of every sport."
Bowman has turned in 130 registrations for the Mini-Martian – and she'll be there with them, running the Martian Marathon.
Correction: The headline on the original version of article incorrectly identified the race for which the students are training, which is the "Mini-Martian".