When people think of marathons, the image most often brought to mind is a mass of runners struggling and straining to reach a far off goal. The Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Downtown YMCA and other local organizations are using a locally run marathon to set children’s focus beyond a thin white line.
The SOCF and YMCA are coming together to provide education and exercise opportunities for Cleveland students to prepare them for the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon and life beyond it.
The program is called We Run This City and has a specific design with specific goals in mind. Teachers and parents work together with students starting around November to prepare them for race day on May 20, when the students will run a two-mile stretch, 10k or a half or full marathon.
The program targets Cleveland Metropolitan School District students starting in sixth grade and includes students in their senior year of high school.
“They start slowing down in their teenage years,” said Tara Taylor, program director at the YMCA. The program initially only included students from sixth grade up to eighth grade, but the program expanded its reach as students got older.
“Probably about 95 percent are elementary schools and middle schools,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of our students come from CMSD schools.”
When the program started, it reached 80 students in six schools. Now, it reaches out to 35 schools and hundreds of students.
“We hope to recruit 900 or more [students], with 500 crossing the finish line,” Taylor said. Those are the same numbers from last year’s race.
“We plan on growing this program since we have had so much success with this one,” she said.
The students aren’t in this alone. Teachers, staff and parents get involved in the program and help the students train as well. Courtney L. Green, a special education teacher at George Washington Carver, is leading the charge at her school. She is backed by two of the school’s principals.
“If you show your commitment, they will be more likely to commit,” Green said.
There are obvious health benefits of the training and running for the children in the community and the adults that help.
“We are able to keep [their blood pressure] down or stabilized,” Taylor said. The athletic leg of the program also ensures the children’s body mass index is at a healthy level.
“I can run farther,” said Tania Trammell, a seventh grader at George Washington Carver. Tania is in her second year with the program and is aiming to run the final leg of the marathon after completing a full marathon last year.
The positive effects of the training reach past the black top for the students and teachers involved. The students and teachers who run get healthier and are infected with a positive spirit.
“If you have healthier kids, you have more disciplined kids,” Taylor said. “If you have healthy kids, you have happy kids.”
Added Tania: “All my other teammates are with me. When the last person finished, we were all cheering. We keep on encouraging them to run to the end.”
Cheer on students on race day: May 20. One of the best spots to watch the race is at East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue.