Considering Krit Kearins' devotion to children, it seems natural that the road race in her honor should have a kids fun run, too. This year, for the first time, it will.
Andover resident Michael Flanagan was so impressed with the atmosphere at the annual event, he volunteered to create a kids race for it.
"There was just such a great spirit. I've run a lot of road races and this one really stood out as having a very festive nature about it. It's really embraced by the community," said the Sevilla Road resident.
"It's kind of hard to put your finger on it. It's the tone or mood set by the volunteers and the family. People are really excited about it," Flanagan said. "It's the smiles and the thank yous and the genuine appreciation that people are participating."
Flanagan has run six to 10 road races per year for the past decade or so. He moved to Andover about four years ago and ran in the last two Krit Classics. After last year's third annual race, he emailed Krit's mom and offered to launch a kids race, even though he has never directed a race before.
"The only race he repeats every year is the Krit Classic. He has two children and he asked me if we'd like to do a kids run," said Pam Sheehy, Krit's mom.
Kearins was known for her involvement with youth, and for her own youthful energy. She not only taught children how to dive as a coach, but studied early childhood education in school. She was working as a nursing assistant at Children's Hospital and studying to be a pediatric nurse when she died. After Kearins died, her family found a draft of a children's book Kearins was writing about a girl surfer. They published the illustrated book "Surf's Up, Penny!" and copies will be available for sale at the race.
"It [the kids race] goes with the whole theme of Krit and what she was all about and what she wanted to be. She loved kids — it is fitting that we are doing it," said Sheehy.
As of early this week, about 60 kids had signed up to run the new kids race. Every finisher will receive a T-shirt, a golden medal with a green ribbon and a green rubber bracelet. Green was Krit Kearins' favorite color.
The kids race is for youth 12 and younger. It is about a half-mile long and will start at the starting line for the five-kilometer race, in front of Andover High. Kids will run down to Lovely Field and travel about three-fourths of the way around the track to the finish line, said Flanagan.
The kids race starts at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 3. It costs $5 and people can register online at kritclassic.com.
Neil Fater is editor of the Townsman.