In town: Lifelong runner prepares to represent Palo Alto at Kasumigaura Marathon | News

Read news about a Palo Altan taking part in the Kasumigaura Marathon in Japan, Palo Alto Unified being recognized by Niche as the top school district in the state, and a scholarship to the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

RUN WITH PURPOSE… For Chris Cummings, who lives in Palo Alto, the Kasumigaura Marathon in Tsuchiura, Japan, is about more than just finishing time.

Cummings, 54, will represent Palo Alto in the April 16 race. Neighbors Abroad is sponsoring a town twinning between Tsuchiura and Palo Alto, and Palo Altans have previously competed in the race – most recently Neighbors Abroad Board Member Ed Fike in 2019. This is the first time the marathon has been held since the pandemic began.

When friends told Cummings about the chance to represent the city during the race, he jumped at the chance.

“It sounded really exciting,” Cummings said. “I didn’t really know much about neighbors abroad before.”

While training for the marathon, he has been researching Tsuchiura, learning about Japanese culture and the city. Once in Japan, he will meet with the Tsuchiura City Council, share Palo Alto gifts with his hosts, visit local schools and parks, and participate in cultural exchange activities such as traditional noodle making.

Then there’s the trifle of walking 26.2 miles.

Running a marathon requires significant training: Cummings completed his longest training run, 20 miles, on a recent Sunday, and he gets some form of exercise every day. Now he reduces his mileage to arrive healthy at the starting line.

He said he also runs for a purpose: to raise funds for LifeMoves. He first learned about the work of LifeMoves through his community and he and his family have been volunteers ever since. “It’s part of the structure of Palo Alto,” he said of the organization.

Cummings said he regularly repairs bikes for LifeMoves customers and raises bike donations for the organization.

“It’s very motivating to contribute to something that’s not just about writing a check — you get in and do something with your own two hands,” he said. “That’s what it means to be part of a community.”

He’s hoping to raise $26,200 through his marathon fundraiser, and he nearly reached 50% of his goal as of April 6th.

As soon as he arrives in Japan, he wants to finish the race, but it is important to him to represent Palo Alto well.

“Every kilometer I practice raising my arms and smiling,” he said. “I don’t want to be one of those grumpy runners – I want to hold my head up and see what’s going on around me.” Donations can be made at

TOP OF THE LIST… The Palo Alto Unified School District was recently voted the best school district in California by Niche, a company that publishes various rankings including K-12 schools.

Niche’s top three California school districts were all located in the Bay Area. Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District placed second, while Los Gatos Saratoga Joint Union High School District placed third.

The formula Niche uses to rank school districts involves various data sources, with the largest piece being the “academic grade,” which Niche calculates based on state test scores and graduation rate, among other things, according to Niche’s website. Some of the factors are self-reported by niche users, including the colleges students are interested in or actually attend, average SAT and ACT scores, and parent and student surveys about school experience. Niche’s full data set is not available online but is available for purchase.

Nationally, Palo Alto Unified is ranked the ninth best school district. When considering the best public high schools in California, Gunn High School topped the list and Palo Alto High School sixth.

Nueva School in Hillsborough was ranked third best private high school in California, Stanford Online High School fourth, Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough fifth and Castilleja School sixth.

EQUIPPED TO LEARN… The Palo Alto Art Center Foundation is among 63 recipients of a state grant program from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment.

The foundation is set to receive $82,800 to support its Social Emotional Learning Toolkit Project. The project provides students from kindergarten through fifth grade with materials that encourage social and emotional learning, the Palo Alto Art Center said in a recent Instagram post.

Collectively, this year’s grantees cover more than 25 counties across the state. “This funding will support projects across the state that highlight history and culture that have historically been underrepresented and allow more people to experience these remarkable stories,” California Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot said in a press release .