Last year, I did press coverage for the 49th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival. One of the more inspiring films I saw was 'Runners High'(http://www.runnershighfilm.com/).
This documentary takes a fascinating look at a volunteer based running program, Students Run Oakland(http://studentsrunoakland.org).
The Students Run Oakland program trains any interested high school student to run the Los Angeles Marathon. The vast majority of the kids who participate in the program come from tough neighborhoods, tough families, or tough circumstances. Additionally, many of these kids attend grossly underfunded public schools.
Many of these kids are on the fringe with a real dearth of positive influences and little to inspire them that 'anything is possible'. As Students Run Oakland coach Alphonzo Jackson says to his young runners, 'You guys have done something out of the ordinary, so that makes you extraordinary'. What a wonderful and inspiring message to send.
Many who complete a marathon walk away with the sense that they did something extraordinary and it's not uncommon to see people chase even more daunting goals/dreams passionately as a result of their journey to 26.2.
But, for kids who come from broken homes, live in neighborhoods where violence is a constant, and graduating high school without getting shot is a stretch, Alphonzo's message seems that much more powerful.
Independent of the positive and life affirming message that a film like 'Runners High' sends, it also makes one reflect on the current state of physical education in public schools. So many physical education programs are disappearing in public schools during a time in which childhood obesity is at an all time high. There's a higher probability that a kid is going to play Grand Theft Auto than run a mile (let alone a marathon.
You look at a program like Students Run Oakland and wonder why more programs such as these aren't available to kids all over the country. Isn't it infinitely easier to teach the benefits of a healthy lifestyle at an early age rather than decades later when one has already adopted a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle?
With this in mind, I'm working with SRO to put together a half marathon training/fundraising program in the latter part of 2007. Programs such as 'Students Run Oakland' need our support and if you're thinking of knocking out 13.1 at some point later this year, I'd strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for this program!