LOSTANT — Having laced up their running shoes for the first time only a few months ago, a Lostant brother and sister have quickly made themselves competitive on the local 5K circuit.
John Ricci, 9 and Leah Ricci, 8, began running this summer while attending the Kids’ Running Clinic hosted by the Starved Rock Runners group.
“We’re a home-schooling family, so things like track aren’t activities they’ll get a choice to do as readily at school like most other kids. The kids and I did our first 5K at the Boo Milby race in August, which is what the clinic trained the kids to do,” Kathy Ricci, John and Leah’s mother, said.
After completing the race, Kathy was told how much fun it was, and that they’d like to continue to race. Their grandmother, as a Halloween gift, sponsored their entry into the recent Santas On The Run 5K held in Spring Valley on Nov. 25.
While five family members ran the race, including Kathy, 10 year-old sister Annalise, and 12-year-old sister Christine, it was Leah and John who distinguished themselves on the hilly course.
Leah, in only her second race, won her age group with a time of 34:33, and John placed second in his age group with a time of 32:27. Overall, they crossed the finish line in 138th and 170th places out of a total of 326 runners.
“Some of us are more walkers than runners,” Kathy said with a laugh, although it was apparent after the race how proud she was of her medal winners.
“We started when our mom signed us up for the clinic, and it helped us get ready for the race. I found out I like to run,” John said.
Leah, while she enjoys running, said she doesn’t train that often and usually only goes about a mile because her favorite place to run is during the race.
“Just doing it,” she answered when asked what the hardest part of training was.
Her brother said he “just likes to run around.”
As a soccer player, John has plenty of opportunity to run around, and he’s also a Cub Scout. Leah gets additional exercise through her time spent dancing.
When asked if they were competitive with each other, John said “not really,” but his sister answered with a definitive “yes,” so sibling rivalry may yet help push them toward lower run times.
However, it seems as though they mostly encourage each other, and their goals revolve around beating their personal times, not the other runners.
“I want to keep beating my time and run in more races,” John said.
Leah, as well as beating her own time, wants to go further.
“I want to go one mile longer,” she said.
With the time of the polar vortex nearing, opportunities for 5Ks will be limited during the next few months. The next scheduled race on the Starved Rock Runners’ calendar is the Lori’s Walleye Run 5K on March 24 at Hall High School in Spring Valley.
For more information on the group and upcoming races, visit www.starvedrockrunners.org.