The Running Mates program is designed to prepare students age 11-18 to run in a local 5k or 4 mile race. Running Mates coaches are the teachers or school staff who lead these after-school practices 3 times a week. Coaches serve as leaders and role models who help achieve Chicago Run's goal to promote teamwork, commitment, perseverance, and a deeper understanding of community and diversity.


Meet the amazing leaders who make this program a reality:



CICS Bucktown - Ms. Kaspar

Jenna Kaspar a 4/5th grade teacher at CICS Bucktown. Jenna began running as a way to stay active and challenge herself by running multiple races throughout the year. She started partnering with Chicago Run as a coach of the Running Mates program for middle school students in 2016 as a way to get involved, as well as get to know a different group of students in the school.

"I love being able to introduce kids to running, an activity that I myself have grown to love."

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Castellanos Elementary - Ms. Melesio

Veronica Melesio, is a Special Education Classroom Assistant at Rosario Castellanos and a runner at heart. She joined Chicago Run just this last winter season.

"I am very happy to have joined Chicago Run. They open up a window, to students that want to join a sport but are afraid to fail. It has given a voice to many of my students, I can't ever be more grateful. Thank you" 


Chopin Elementary - Ms. Preucil

Nicole Preucil is Chopin’s School Social Worker and a running enthusiast. This is her first year with Chicago Run and her second year coaching track at Chopin. She has run 5 marathons and plans on her sixth this year!  

"Running has always held a special place in my heart. I love to run and have made it a fundamental part of my life. I am excited to be a part of this program.  I look forward to learning and growing with Chicago Run."


Emerson Elementary - Mr. Puhr

Dennis is a fourth grade teacher at Emerson Elementary in Berwyn. Dennis lives on the northwest side of Chicago. He was impressed by the Chicago Run programs he heard about at John B. Murphy Elementary. He had already started a running club at Emerson, so he reached out to Chicago Run to see if Emerson could join, and the rest is history. Dennis enjoys running on Chicago’s lakefront as well as participating in 5Ks around the city. He has run the San Diego marathon and several half marathons. In his spare time he is the President of the Athletic Field Park; coordinates the Emerson Commander Gardening; enjoys spending time reading with his family. 


Jordan Elementary, Mr. Mahon

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Lawndale Elementary - Ms. Perry

Kirsten Perry is the school counselor at Lawndale Community Academy. She has coached Chicago Run for 3 seasons. She has a love of running that she shares with her students. She has run in around 10 half marathons and in a number of shorter races! 

"I have developed a love of running over the past ten years and wanted to share this love with my students. I wanted to help my students become more active and healthy so that they can develop a positive self-image. Chicago Run has been such an excellent program that my students, of all athletic abilities, look forward to participating in each season." 


Lewis Elementary - Ms. Dignin

Mallory Dignin is the 4th grade math teacher at Lewis and just completed her 3rd year as a Running Mates coach at Lewis. She started running in middle school and took up long distance running when she moved to Chicago, almost 10 years ago.

"I love the Running Mates program because it give students in our community, a sense of accomplishment and pride, and, of course, the start of life-long healthy habits. It's also a great chance to reconnect with my former students."


Lewis Elementary - Ms. Gordon

Julia Gordon has been a coach for 4 seasons at Lewis School of Excellence, where she has been a first grade teacher for 2 years. She began coaching Chicago Run in order to get to know more kids at Lewis, particularly outside of the primary levels. Julia has been running for about ten years, competing in over 7 half marathons and various 5ks, 10ks, and other races. 

"I love working within my school community to promote physical health and goal setting. As a runner who has struggled, I want to motivate my team to use running as a positive outlet and a way to see how incredible they are, inside and out! I love the way Chicago Run promotes hard work, sportsmanship, teamwork, and builds self-esteem!” 

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Little Village Lawndale High School, Mr. Voss

Trenton Voss was raised in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. In middle school
and high school he enjoyed participating in track and field. He studied biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and received his Masters in Education from UIC.

"During my time as a student teacher, I had the pleasure of hosting the first ever high school group of Running Mates. To become a licensed educator, a coach, and a mentor all at the same time was a truly rewarding experience."


Murphy School, Mr. Hetland

Eli Hetland is a Special Education Classroom Assistant at Murphy School and has been the Running Mates coach for the past two years.

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National Teachers Academy - Ms. Schneider

Ashley Schneider has been a Running Mates coach for 6 years now.  She started her experience at CICS Bucktown and brought the program to National Teachers Academy which is now in it's second year of the program.  She got involved because she feels running is something that brings everyone together with common goals.  She has seen students continue running far after this program as well as families bonding over a 5k being a shared accomplishment. 

"Chicago Run is truly an amazing organization which has all of our kiddos in mind with each choice they make."

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O'Keeffe School - Ms. Ruggles

Alexandria Ruggles currently teaches 6th grade science at O'Keeffe School of Excellence! She began running in high school and ran cross country and track and field. During that time, she developed a passion for running and continue to share my love of the sport with her students. She has been a running coach for the past two seasons.

"It has been a growing experience for the runners and myself! I looks forward to the seasons ahead!"

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Sawyer Elementary - Ms. Avila

Marlene Avila has been coaching Running Mates for the past four years. She currently teaches writing and reading at Sawyer Elementary School to sixth graders and found that running has been an outlet for a lot of her students. She became involved with Running Mates after being the Chicago Runners program site coordinator for several years.

"I feel that running has added so much to my life and the lives of my students that now I see running as a necessity. I look forward to what Running Mates has to offer to my kids and can't wait to see my runners grow as individuals."


James Ward Elementary - Ms. Galarza

Lisa Galarza has been a Chicago Run coach for 9 years since the program first started at James Ward. 

"I love the program! Not only do the kids stay fit but they grow bonds with each other and are good friends. For some of my kids this is the only place they feel they fit in and that to me is awesome. I myself love running and the way it makes me feel. For these kids it has become very important. They can't wait for practice to start again this Fall!"

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Eli Whitney Elementary - Ms. Hedden (7th-8th Grade)

Elizabeth Hedden is the running coach at Eli Whitney for their 7-8th grade team. This is her second year coaching with Chicago Run and fourth year teaching at Eli Whitney. She teaches 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies.

"This age group is going through significant changes both physically and socially/emotionally. Running provides a healthy outlet for my students to help work through these changes and that is one of the many reasons I joined and have stayed with Chicago Run as a running coach."

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Eli Whitney Elementary - Ms. Martinez (5th-6th Grade)

Jennifer Martinez has been a coach for 4 seasons after having been away for a year. She is at Eli Whitney Elementary School for her third year and is very excited to continue working with Chicago Run!

"I love working with today’s youth and seeing their sense of accomplishment as they push past their limits and break barriers while learning about themselves through a positive outlet like Chicago Run. I am looking forward to making the most out of my time with the kids and Chicago Run this school year!"