Sponsored by John Hancock Running and Fitness, the Adopt-A-Marathoner program, held annually at Hopkinton's Elmwood School, brings Kenyan runners to meet with students and educate them about the benefits of distance running.
Thirteen runners were on hand yesterday to meet with Elmwood's 565 second- and third-graders. Superintendent of schools John E. Phelan Jr. made them honorary teachers for the day and Hopkinton selectpersons named them honorary citizens.
"This is our 12th year, and we've always had a winner, it's amazing," said Elmwood principal Ilene Silver. "Every year they've come, they've won. So we've always won by virtue of them being Hopkinton residents. In years where Catherine Ndereba has won, we've had two winners."
The runners made their way through the crowd, high-fiving students, then received a rousing ovation when introduced individually. The Hopkinton High band played both the Kenyan and American national anthems.
"They're almost like rock stars," said Silver. "When Moses Tanui won [in 1996], he dedicated the win to the school."
Hopkinton High junior Stephanie Camille, a standout distance runner, spoke about how she was inspired from meeting with the Kenyans while attending Elmwood.
The runners then met with third-grade students in breakout sessions and responded to teacher-modeled queries about their homeland and training. They also visited two classrooms that have been studying Kenyan culture and history.
The runners presented the school autographed street banners, and defending men's champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot presented the school a carved figure and picture frame.
A highlight was the annual ceremonial run around the school with about 40 of the youngsters.
"Then," said Silver, "they had lunch."
Not a repeater
Defending women's champion Svetlana Zakharova opted to run London Sunday, rather than defend her Boston title. Paula Radcliffe set the women's world record in London last year (2:15:25). Margaret Okayo, who won Boston in 2002 and was fourth last year, is also in London. Gezahegne Abera, who was second in Boston in 2000, is the defending men's champion in London . . . Tewksbury artist Mico Kaufman is building a 10-foot bronze statue to honor 1946 winner Stylianos Kyriakides of Greece. Kyriakides ran Boston to dramatize the plight of his homeland, which was ravaged by war and famine. His victory led to an increase in donations of food, medicine, and supplies to Greece. The statue features Kyriakides and Spyridon Louis, winner of the first Olympic marathon in 1896 in Athens. The statue will be shipped to Marathon, Greece, and unveiled this summer at the start of the Olympic marathon. The project was commissioned by New Balance.
Expo on display
The 27th annual John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo opens at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the World Trade Center. The Expo, which continues through Sunday, features more than 150 exhibitors. . . . As part of Marathon weekend, Sports Illustrated will have a special exhibit at Kenmore Square Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The current issue of SI features Massachusetts as part of its series on the 50 states and includes a look at the marathon . . . David James Elliott, star of the series "JAG" on CBS, will run Monday to help raise money for children's programs for the Massachusetts Salvation Army. This is Elliot's first Boston but he has run four other marathons.
Reid Laymance of the Globe staff contributed to this report.