Morning running club started by Torrey Pines and Muirlands students becomes a neighborhood get-together

Torrey Pines and Muirlands students in a La Jolla Shores-area neighborhood run laps,.
Torrey Pines Elementary School and Muirlands Middle School students run laps in a La Jolla neighborhood, including Kyla Comp and Sophia O’Brien (in the black T-shirts at left).

Every morning before school starts online, a dozen or so Muirlands Middle School and Torrey Pines Elementary School students run laps around the block on a quiet cul-de-sac in a La Jolla neighborhood near UC San Diego.

Their running club, formed as the coronavirus pandemic keeps local public school campuses closed, started with neighborhood children. But its ripple effect has grown to parents, dog walkers and one senior citizen looking to get some morning exercise. Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged.

“One thing that’s great is we get to socialize, but safely. We get to see our friends and not be as isolated,” said co-founder and Muirlands sixth-grader Sophia O’Brien.

“We sit on our screens all day for math and reading and want to see our friends, so that’s why we did this,” said Torrey Pines Elementary fourth-grader Kyla Comp. “And we wanted to do this in the morning because sometimes classes go long or we have homework, so we like to get outside at least one time in the day.”

The club was inspired by the existing running club at Torrey Pines Elementary, which Sophia also attended. She and Kyla agree that participating in the club before school helped them focus better during class and that it felt good to get some exercise in the morning.

Motivated to set up something similar, the two came up with a set of guidelines, a route and prizes for participants. They sent fliers to neighbors and friends and produced a list of rules, including be kind, work together and be honest. The first meeting was Sept. 2.

Within a few weeks, the student running club has expanded to include parents and dog walkers.
Within a few weeks, the student running club has expanded to include parents and dog walkers.

“Ten laps around the route is one mile, and we mark a card for ourselves ... when they complete a mile, so honesty was important,” Sophia said. “And because we want everyone to become friends, like Kyla and I have, working together was also important.

“In class, it’s easy to make a lot of friends, whereas now we are on Zoom class and we don’t get to talk as much, so we thought this was a nice way to get to know our neighbors. We might see them in school, but now that there isn’t school, we don’t get to see them. But with running club, we can just start a conversation with someone.”

Kyla said she has gotten to know “new kids” through the running club.

Those who complete 15 miles will get to participate in an ice cream party down the line. “We’re going to set it up, but everyone has to bring their own goodies, ice cream and toppings so they feel safe about coming to the party,” Kyla said.

Everyone in the running club will participate in an outdoor movie party using projectors and an outdoor screen.

Kyla’s mother, Kara, said the club has made a huge difference in her house.

“This has been an amazing motivator to get my kids out of bed,” she said with a chuckle. “Kyla has been setting her own alarm, gets up and dressed quickly to be out there. Before we had this, that was almost impossible. She wakes up happy and motivated because her friends are waiting for her.

“The other piece of it ... it’s nice for parents to get to chat in the morning to see how everyone is going, wish them well. It’s been impressive how the community has built up around this.” ◆