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5.14.08 - Cleveland Youth Running Program Spriting Ahead of Pack


Cleveland Youth Running Program Sprinting Ahead of Pack

 We Run This City Youth Marathon Program grows 500% since 2005

    CLEVELAND (May 14, 2008) – More than 400 Cleveland Metropolitan School District students will be running with 10,000 dedicated runners in this year’s 31st annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K on Sunday, May 18. 

      We Run This City Youth Marathon Program, coordinated by the Cleveland Public Health Department’s Steps to a Healthier Cleveland and the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, is sponsoring 411 6th – 12th grade students from over 20 Cleveland schools in the race.  Participation is more than double last year’s participation and up 500 percent from the program’s first year in 2005.

      Students participating in the youth marathon program will run a full 26.2 mile marathon, however they can run up to the first 25 miles from March through May in their physical education classes or during after school hours. Their final run – 1.2 miles, 10K (6.2 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles) – is run on race day so that the participants can finish with the other racers and be awarded finishers medals.

            “We saw the potential of the youth marathon program in other cities before introducing it, and it has really taken off with the collaboration of our community partners,” says Cleveland Marathon Executive Race Director Jack Staph. “With running comes an awareness of health and fitness. That’s a valuable lesson for our city’s youth to learn.”

            Matt Carroll, Director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) concurs: “Seeing the tremendous growth and interest kids are taking in the program tells us it’s doing what it was set up to do – get our children interested in fitness.”

     The program sparked so much interest among students that they decided to make it their own by changing the program’s name to We Run This City.

     Of the 411 students participating, 300 will be running their final 1.2 miles on race day.  They will be joined by Glenn Haley, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, in the final 1.2-mile run. Roughly 100 students will be running the 10K and will be joined by Dr. Eugene T. Sanders, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Two seventh grade students from Buckeye Woodland Elementary School on Cleveland’s east side, who ran the 10K last year, will be running the half marathon (13.1 miles). Buckeye is boasting full participation with its entire 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes running.

    “These kids are the ‘rock stars’ of their schools,” said Tara Taylor, the YMCA staffer who coordinates We Run This City. “They are admired by their peers, and many wear their finisher’s medal around their neck the rest of the year because they are so proud of themselves.”

      In order for them to train and compete appropriately, the Greater Cleveland YMCA has provided all participating school physical education instructors with a running curriculum to keep the students progressing properly.  YMCA mentors also visit the students throughout their conditioning to supplement the training they receive from their physical education teachers.

            “The physical education teachers are really the key to the students’ accomplishments,” says Taylor. “They are training the kids in their gym classes and after school. They even run the neighborhood with them so the kids can get their miles completed.”

            We Run This City Youth Marathon Program is supported by St. Luke’s Foundation, Medical Mutual of Ohio Charitable Foundation of the Cleveland Foundation, and others. Any remaining needs of the program are met by Steps to a Healthier Cleveland. The funding pays the students’ fees and provides each student with proper running attire including socks, sports bras and running shoes. Second Sole, a local athletic footwear retailer and an official fitness partner of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, is supplying running shoes at cost to the program.

 “While we were fitting the students for their new shoes, we kept seeing kid after kid coming in wearing shoes too small or not suitable for running," recalls Taylor. “We knew many of the students had been urged by their teachers to participate in the program for this very reason, but the kids were just there to have fun. The new and better fitting shoes and attire has just been a great unexpected benefit.”

     The free footwear and running gear aren’t the only reasons the kids are participating in the program. Students were asked to rank the motives behind their participation and while the typical reasons were present – “all my friends are running,” “my parents and teachers want me to do it,” and “we get free stuff” – the most common answer was “I like to run.”

      We Run This City Youth Marathon Program is dedicated to bringing health and wellness to the community, and the young participants are experiencing first-hand how a proper diet and regular exercise can increase overall health and physical well-being. Based on pre-program research, nearly 25 percent of those participating in the 10K this year were overweight when they began running, significantly higher than the national average of 18 percent. Program directors expect that number to decline post-race.

       “More than half of our runners report mostly sedentary activities in their free time rather than active ones, and more than a third of them say they don’t feel their neighborhoods are safe for outdoor physical activities,” says CDPH’s Carroll. “We hope that this experience will give them new opportunities and new perspective on the benefits of active living.”       

      The students running the 10Kwere invited to a conditioning clinic at the Lakewood YMCA this past Friday to meet with YMCA mentors. They attended fitness classes, learned nutrition education, and continued to get ready for the big day. The YMCA also donated two three-month memberships to the students running the half marathon. On Saturday before the race, the 10K and half marathon runners will spend the night at the downtown YMCA to prepare for the early morning race. Running legend and seven-time winner of the Rite Aid Cleveland 10K, Anne Audain, will speak to the students that evening.

            The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, which coordinates the youth program’s race-day logistics and provides at-cost race entries for the students, offers the following opportunities for people to participate in the event: full marathon, half marathon, 10K, full marathon walking division, half marathon walking division, 10K walking division, full marathon wheelchair division, 10K wheelchair division, Kids’ Run and Corporate teams. Volunteers are needed for a number of pre-race and race day responsibilities.

           For details on the race, or to register for the 31st Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, call 800-467-3826 or visit www.clevelandmarathon.com. For details about We Run This City youth marathon program, contact Summer Paris at (216) 664-3076 or (216) 857-5760.

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