Emily Horan likes to run.
She likes to walk, too, and hang out with her friends.
She was doing both Thursday after school at Linden Elementary where she is in third grade.
Horan is one of more than 240 Linden kids participating in iRun4Life - about half the student body.
They, in turn, are among more than 2,000 elementary school kids from Central Bucks, Council Rock, and Wissahickon school districts and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that are part of the after school running and walking program.
The iRun4Life program teaches kids that anyone can be active, said Beth Brennan, who runs the program at along with co-director Jocelyn Tumolo. The hope is that it will encourage kids to stay active throughout their lives, said Brennan, who also is board secretary for iRun4Life.
Kids like Emily have responded with enthusiasm.
For the past 8 to 10 weeks, kids across the Central Bucks School District have met once a week after school. After a brief talk about healthy habits, they run and walk, a little farther each week.
"The way schools' programs run may be different but all iRun4Life schools incorporate three core pillars: running, awareness of healthy nutrition and good deeds," said Brennan.
The program has drawn legions of participants.
At , about 115 kids ran on Tuesdays. Cold Spring Elementary drew more than 130 kids, and signed up more than 110. Kutz's popular program has grown from 148 runners in 2010 to 224 this year, Brennan said.
Catholic schools have been participating too, including in Doylestown and St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne.
At Linden, where the "Let's Run" program has been in place for years, about half the student body participates. They meet on Thursdays, where, after a brief pep talk in the gym, they head outside to do the "Linden Loop," a 1/3 mile circuit around the school.
They run again.
The older kids hold the kindergarteners' hands and keep them going when they start to tire.
And after every loop, they get a bracelet to remind them how far they've gone. Three bracelets just about equals a mile.
Emily, who is 9, likes it because it's fun.
Her mom likes it for deeper reasons.
"It's an organized sport, but it's not competitive. The kids are competing against themselves," said Debbie Horan.
She said she has noticed her daughter gaining strength and stamina over the program's eight weeks.
"She can run a lot farther than she could at the beginning," Debbie said.
Linden started the Let's Run program about five or six years ago, said Beth Gray, who heads this year's running program. Now, it's under the larger umbrella of the iRun4Life program.
None of the programs could happen without parent volunteers.
At Kutz, about 10 teachers have acted as coaches for the program, Brennan said, along with 40 parents.
"It is a big time commitment each week but many of the parents return each year," Brennan said.
At Linden, about 45 volunteers help out with everything from keeping the kids organized by grade and team to handing out t-shirts and water. Some run or walk along with the kids during their training runs.
This is the second year that Amy Mazzanti has volunteered. With two kids, a first grader and a fourth grader, in the program this year, she said she has seen all the participants blossom.
"You see the kids so proud to come in and show the log of how many miles they've run," Mazzanti said. "It's a great program."
Many of the children will take that training into a kids-only, professionally timed 3-kilometer race on Sunday, May 20 in Doylestown's .
Pre-registered runners get a t-shirt, and all runners will receive a finisher medal, and the first second and third place awards will go to the top finishers in each grade. Water stops and healthy snacks also will be available, organizers said.
The race is open to all children in Kindergarten through 6th grade, and proceeds will support iRun4Life, which is a non-profit organization.
For more information, visit the iRun4Life website.