NEWARK — Several dozen spectators lined Franklin Street as Superman and a pint-sized Bat Girl ran hand in hand through the crisp, autumn air. The spectators clapped and cheered as the superheros sprinted underneath a large banner emblazoned with the words, "St. Michael School."
Superman and Bat Girl, also known as Michael and McKinley Miller, respectively, were among the 56 people who participated in the St. Michael School Halloween 5K Race and Fitness Walk, which was held Oct. 30. A handful of the participants wore costumes, while the rest opted to don more traditional athletic apparel for their 3.1-mile jaunt through the streets of downtown Newark.
The event marked St. Michael’s first time sponsoring a 5K race, said Michelle Malach, coordinator of the 5K and a parent member of St. Michael’s School Advisory Committee. St. Michael students participate in a school marathon or walkathon each year, and over the summer Malach began to think it might be nice to offer a similar opportunity to parents, relatives and other members of the Newark community, she said.
"We wanted to do something to connect with the community more. We didn’t want it to just be for the students," she said.
The idea of a 5K race came quite naturally to Malach, as she and her husband, Joe, both are runners, she added.
"It’s kind of in our family," she said
Malach proposed the idea to the School Advisory Committee in August and ran with it after receiving enthusiastic support from school officials and other parents, she said. The Newark community also was incredibly supportive, she noted, and 41 local businesses sponsored the 5K and fitness walk. These businesses donated everything from cash to sports drinks to discounts on the race T-shirts.
The day’s festivities also included a children’s costume contest and a Kids’ Fun Run, which both were held after the 5K, and Citizens Bank donated a $50 savings bond to the winner of the costume contest, she added. Each of the dozen or so children who participated in the fun run received a T-shirt, a coupon redeemable for a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut, and a balloon and sucker from ESL Federal Credit Union.
"The Kids’ Fun Run wasn’t a contest to see who could go the fastest. It was just for fun, and it went really well," Malach said.
Malach initially wasn’t expecting a large turnout for the 5K, since it was a first-year race. Registrations poured in, however, and by the time race day arrived, 40 runners and 16 walkers had signed up to participate. Allowing walkers to complete the course along with the runners probably helped boost the registration numbers, Malach said.
"I was surprised we got over 30. I was amazed, I was blown away," she said. "It was probably like 60 to 70 percent school people, and 30 to 40 percent were people from the community."
The top male and female 5K finishers in each of nine age groups won prizes, which ranged from cash to gift certificates and products donated from local wineries. The prizes were awarded after the race in the school gymnasium, where participants enjoyed refreshments as youngsters milled around in costume waiting for the costume contest and fun run to begin.
Eight-year-old McKinley Miller, who had finished the 5K course with her father in 37 minutes and 17 seconds, won first place for children 10 and under. Her mother, Tracy Miller, was the fastest female finisher in her age group. In keeping with the Miller family’s theme, Tracy Miller ran the course dressed as Superwoman, and completed the race in 31 minutes and 44 seconds.
Running is a big part of life for the Miller family, and St. Michael’s Halloween 5K and Fitness Walk wasn’t the first such race they’ve participated in as a family, Michael said. It was, however, the first race the family ran together while in costume, Tracy noted with a laugh.