MATTOON — The inaugural Teacher Chase footrace brought a large crowd of runners and walkers to Williams Elementary School and the adjacent neighborhood late Saturday morning.
Principal McLain Schaefer said he had only anticipated that 150-200 participants might turn out for the Teacher Chase when the school partnered with its Parent-Teacher Organization to plan this fundraising 5-kilometer foot race and 1-mile run/walk.
As participants filled the school gym prior to the Teacher Chase starting, Schaefer said he was pleasantly surprised that this event drew more than 450 entrants. He credited community support with helping spread the word. Schaefer, an avid competitive runner, said he planned to jog at a relaxed pace on Saturday so could visit with the many students there.
"All the hard work has been done at this point and now it's time to just enjoy the race," Schaefer said. Proceeds from the race entry fees will go to helping the PTO fund field trips and other school projects.
Williams Elementary fifth-graders Lilly Durbin and Adrienne Muchow were decked out in matching pastel tutus, striped socks and pink headbands for the 5K. Adrienne said her mother, Janelle, made the tutus especially for the occasion. Lilly's mother, Nichole Durbin, who ran with them, said they turned out to show their support for the school.
Their group of runners also include Jim Monroe and his son, Lucas, a fifth-grader across town at Riddle Elementary School. Monroe said he and his family enjoy taking part in obstacle course races, including the Toyota Park Stadium Sprint in Chicago, so they are glad to see Williams Elementary offering youths a new physical fitness activity.
Brittany Prince said she turned out for her first running event to help support the Williams PTO. She said her son and running partner, Williams first-grader Jaxon Stodden, was looking forward to seeing his school friends outside of a normal school day.
"He is excited to be with his friends. It will be a good time," Prince said.
Participants started and ended the foot race on the school campus after following a marked route through the adjacent residential neighborhood. The route was lined by student volunteers from Mattoon High School who cheered on the participants, handed out water to them, and doused them with colorful powder for the race's color run theme.
The school gym hosted bounce houses, an obstacle course, face painting and a photo booth for participants. The food truck from Don Sol Mexican Grill served up tacos, churros and more outside the gym. Teachers, staff and administrators from Williams and other Mattoon schools helped the PTO staff the event.
"This is going to be an annual event," Schaefer said, adding that organizers hope that the Teacher Chase will grow even bigger next year.