Worthington Schools sixth-grader uses running to stay connected during pandemic

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Ivy Pope, a Worthington Schools sixth-grader at Liberty Elementary School, has powered through the pandemic by continuing to organize her neighborhood running club, which she started five years ago.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has had many consequences, with one being the separation of family and friends as lockdowns commenced, quarantines ensued and schools and businesses went remote.

But Liberty Elementary School sixth-grader Ivy Pope has found a way to maintain connections with her friends and community in a healthy, productive and socially distant manner: running.

Ivy, 11, started a neighborhood running club with a 1-mile radius in her Worthington neighborhood five years ago, and she usually keeps the club active throughout the summer months when school is on break until the start of a new academic year.

But during the pandemic, Ivy said, she kept the club going until Thanksgiving as Worthington Schools spent significant time in remote-learning mode because of the pandemic. Worthington Schools transitioned back to a hybrid model in January, with students returning to classrooms during part of the school week.

Ivy said seeing her friends during the fall months during her running club was a welcome break from the second half of the 2019-20 academic year, when schools around the nation went fully remote because pf the pandemic.

“It was nice to come together and see other people,” Ivy said. “I know of one family who came ... and this was their thing that they did to interact with other people.”

Ivy's longtime friend Ryan Goleb, who also is in sixth grade and has participated in the club since its first year, agreed.

“I like it because even during (the pandemic), you get to see your friends and socialize with other people,” he said.

During the running sessions, which usually take place once a week while the club is active, runners meet at the Pope family's front yard. 

Ivy, 11, said she started the club when she was 7 years old.

She said the first reason was because she really loved running and wanted to do it outside of the school year.

“One of the reasons was we had a run club at my school, and I was really going to miss it over the summer because I enjoy just running with my school,” Pope said. “So I chose to start up my own.”

The other reason? She loved clipboards.

Ivy's older brother, Worthington Kilbourne High School freshman Will Pope, gave her a clipboard at the time, and Ivy said she wanted to go around the neighborhood to kids her age with the clipboard in hand, almost like a person collecting signatures for a petition.

“I loved clipboards,” she said. “And so he gave it to me, and I wanted to walk around the neighborhood and ask kids stuff with the clipboard.”

“She was obsessed with this clipboard,” Ivy's mother, Angie Pope, said. “So she was like, ‘I'm going to go door to door and get people to sign up.'"

Ivy Pope, a Worthington Schools sixth-grader at Liberty Elementary School, has powered through the pandemic by continuing to organize her neighborhood running club, which she started five years ago.

Before the club's first run ever, Angie Pope said, she and her daughter weren’t sure how many kids were going to show up. To their surprise, nearly a dozen did, she said.

“(We) were both shocked at the very first run at 10 a.m. during the summer,” Angie Pope said. “It was like 10 or 11 kids that showed up. I told her, ‘You know, you might get one or two people to come run with you.’”

The club has expanded in size and scope since then. Originally proposed as gathering to run 1 mile a week, the club now assembles for 30 to 45 minutes, and runners can choose to run whatever distance they can handle, Angie Pope said.

“After maybe the second year we realized some of these kids were really runners,” she said. “And so we would gather for 30 to 45 minutes every week, and everybody could just run at their own pace, however many miles they want.”

The club includes children and families of all ages. Several parents volunteer each week to serve as crossing guards.

Ryan Goleb’s mother, Kim Goleb, is one of the participants.

“It's just wonderful,” she said. “I've met new people in the neighborhood that I didn't know before, which was great. It's just a good way for us to be able to socialize with each other and the kids to socialize while still getting movement.”

Ivy said she plans to keep her running club going in the spring.

Although she might become more busy in the years ahead – Ivy plays midfield in soccer and plans to participate in school sports when she goes to McCord Middle School next year – she said she wants to keep her personal running club going for as long as possible.

“I really love doing this club, and I want to keep it going for as long as I can,” she said.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve