They gather after school twice a week. Over 100 students in grades 4 – 6. Every spring.
They have a desire to challenge themselves.
They have a vision of making their marks.
They have big hearts,
in small packages.
I have the privilege of coaching these young runners, as we learn about proper running mechanics, healthy eating, and mental fortitude. Together with other staff members and local coaches, we share our voices to guide these young students to develop patterns and practices that will establish a lifestyle of fitness.
But the voices that they often hear most aren’t the coaches voices. the people that they relate to most aren’t the grown-ups that tower over them.
Their hearts are most attuned to the models that come in small packages.
So while I contact local running clubs and high schools to bring in guest speakers, I focus most of my energy trying to connect them with the stories, and the voices of other young runners.
Runners like Noah (10) and Lucas (8) Aldrich, brothers who worked together to complete all of the events in the triathlon. Lukas, full of spirit and passion, is unable to run, swim, or bike. That’s where older brother Noah comes in. Lukas smiles and encourages his older brother, while Noah swims, pedals, and runs, bringing Lukas along with him every step of the way.
Runners like 12 yr old Lucy Lawrence, who ran fifty 5K races in 50 days, running alongside her Ironman father, raising funds for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, an organization focused on teaching youths about food and nutrition and combatting obesity in America.
Runners like Ryan Tarapchak, who at 11 years old decided to run for 30 consecutive days, with the hopes of raising $10,000 for friend’s 6 yr. old sister who was suffering through a rare form of cancer. Ryan’s huge heart and example helped him to far surpass his lofty goal.
Runners like Winter Vinecki, who set a world record as the youngest runner ever to complete a marathon on all 7 continents, at the ripe old age 15 years. She uses her voice and her heart to fight prostate cancer, through her organization Team Winter https://teamwinter.org/ When she spoke to our students a couple years ago, we were captivated, students and staff alike. I want to be like Winter when I grow up.
Small packages, but huge hearts. Strong voices. These are the stories that my students will connect with, as they prepare to write their own stories. These are the voices that they need to hear, as they learn how to find their own voice. Our young students may be small packages, but through running they learn that they have huge hearts, and important voices, ready to leave a mark on the world around them.