RUNNER Ray Matthews’ initiative to get school pupils to run a mile a day is gaining legs.
Aston Hall Primary School has become the 15th school in the region to join the Run a Mile a Day scheme and interest is surging.
“It’s going amazingly well,” said Ray.
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“I was a speaker at a conference in Doncaster last week and from that about five Doncaster schools now want to take part.
“Around 25 more Rotherham schools also want to get involved, so I am hoping to get around them soon to launch it.”
Aston Hall pupils were joined by Ray on their first mile run around their school grounds accompanied by their teachers.
Ray (76), of Maltby, said: “I try to inspire the children and talk about why it’s important for them to be fit and healthy.
“My life started with a decision that I made at ten years old to become fit and that was how I took up boxing.
“The discipline from the sport is something I carried on from being young and that’s how I live now and why I can still achieve things today.”
The pensioner added: “At Aston Hall, I actually ended up running two miles as I ran with two groups.
“Afterwards, a schoolgirl tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘Mr Matthews, I think you’ve done exceptionally well for your age today!’”
Ray launched the scheme last year after reading about a similar initiative set up in Scotland.
“I read this article and it was something that I had thought about setting up for some time to encourage schools to get active,” he said.
The first school to take on Ray’s challenge was Norton Infant School in Doncaster and since then it had snowballed, he said.
There is no set time in the school day when children run their mile.
Instead teachers are being encouraged to recognise when children were losing “academic interest”.
Ray added: “When they are starting to yawn or look lethargic, we want teachers to stop and get them outside for the run.
“It only takes about 15 minutes and the kids come back into the classroom rosy-cheeked and full of enthusiasm.
“It’s also a chance for teachers to increase their wellbeing and become fitter.”
Ray is now working on a project to create an animated cartoon to show schoolchildren the mechanics of being a good runner.
He said: “When children first start running they set off really fast, have their hands hanging down, get out of breath quickly and don’t enjoy it.
“I want to show them through the cartoon that running a mile is not about racing it, it’s about achieving it.”