Wednesday May 29th turned out to be a very busy day. I had been invited to Lethbridge, Alberta to participate in the Little Souls Kids Marathon, an event spear-headed by the Runners Soul specialty running and walking store. They also help organise another event, the Lost Souls Ultra, which is one of the top endurance races, in Alberta and garners the respect of any distance runner. Covering distances up to 100 miles, (160 kms) the route takes you up and down the coolies along the Oldman River. The prize for each finisher is a rock with your name and race time engraved on it. I am the proud owner of two.
This particular morning, my first stop was Lakeview Elementary School. Some of the students would be taking part in the Little Souls event. One of the teachers, Deb Firth, has operated the school running club for the past 7 years. This year there were 167 members, students from kindergarten to grade 5. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8.00am they would head out, with parents and teachers in tow, to run 800m. Now all they had to do was cover a final 2km and they would have, in total, covered a marathon distance. This would be the culmination of the run club year and afterwards there would be a celebratory pizza party, complete with slideshow, running certificates, awards and posing for the end of season club photo.
Deb had invited me to speak to the students. I told them about "Marathon Quest 250" when, in 2010, I ran 250 marathons in one year and raised $320,000 for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. After the talk, we all headed out for a1-km fun run, around the school.
Later in the day, I spoke to groups of students at two other schools, Dr. Probe Elementary and Chinook High, the venue for the Little Souls Kids Marathon. At 5.30 p.m. the BBQ truck pulled up and volunteers started to role in. The first runners arrived at just after six and at 6.25 p.m. the announcer asked that they all line up in the start chute. The 363 boys and girls from various local schools were divided into three groups: 11 to 12, 8 to 10 and 7 and under. I strategically placed myself in the third group. The first two groups set off 2 minutes apart and then it was our turn. The starter counted down from five and we were off.
The group soon thinned out and I found myself pacing three year-old Ethan. He was the quiet, determined type and kept up a steady pace throughout the 2 km but with 100m to go he put on a spurt and took me at the line.
It was a revelation spending the day with these children, their teachers and parents. There is great concern regarding the issues of child obesity and diabetes, so it is good to know that there are adults out there, especially teachers like Deb, who are tackling these issues head on in a practical and fun way. We need less studies and more action. It's not complicated; it just needs the will to make it happen. We at least owe that to the kids.