December 17, 2001
Valley students up and running
Eagle Rock Multi-Age athletes participate in marathon
by Kate Russell
Special to the Valley View
Sunday, Nov. 25, was cold, overcast and drizzly. Most of us in the Valley were recovering from too much Thanksgiving food and too much Christmas shopping, except for the students of Eagle Rock K-5 Multi-Age. These students dragged themselves out of bed at 7 a.m. to participate in their first marathon.
Yes, that is correct, these students, nee athletes and their families headed to Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center to run in the Seattle Kids Marathon to benefit the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation. How is it that these kids, ranging in age from 5 to 11, ran a marathon ‹ all 26.2 miles of it? It is due to the persistence of two parents, Paige Denison and Nicole Pitts.
The Eagle Rock K-5 Multi-Age program is located next to Cedarcrest High School in Duvall. Operated much like a separate school, the program has 75 students in a cooperative learning environment, and is just one of the unique programs offered by the Riverview School District. The program is exceptional in many ways but one of the most significant is that it requires each family to volunteer at least 60 hours of time to the program. Paige and Nicole volunteered to lead a physical education program for the students.
Paige and Nicole are both runners and knew of an unusual program offered by the Seattle Marathon Association that was designed to get kids excited about running. Paige and Nicole knew that running is a basic skill that everyone needs, from the weekend soccer player to the Metro rider, late for his bus. They figured that if kids learn to run, they could apply this skill to all facets of their lives.
Every student at the school was enrolled in the marathon for a $5 fee. Then, starting on Oct. 15, 2001, the kids started running on a short trail adjacent to their school. The program was comprehensive, including warm-up, stretching, nutrition and hygiene. Regular runs were interspersed with "fun days" where the athlete's long strides were replaced with a horse gallop or bunny hop.
The goal was always completion; never speed, so even if an athlete walked the course they could complete their alloted distance in the time provided. Every day, rain or shine, they ran, and slowly they could feel the difference in their performance. They could feel how much easier it was to complete the course. At the end, each class from kindergarten to fifth grade could effortlessly complete a mile a day. And those miles added up.
It is not easy to run every day for an adult ‹ the difficulty is compounded when you have legs that are only 18 inches long. The reason that a 5-year-old could complete a marathon is that all the distance they ran since October counted toward their marathon distance. Every child needed to complete at least 25 miles before race day. Each mile was recorded daily on a graph, every five miles was rewarded with small rubber feet called "toe tokens" to hang on their shoes or backpack.
On that drizzly Sunday, the student athletes joined the elite marathon runners in Seattle to finish the last 1.2 miles of their marathon, by running around the Seattle Center, starting and finishing on the same course as all the other athletes.
Parents and friends were encouraged to join their students and run the course with them. Eagle Rock fielded the largest group of runners in the marathon.
The Eagle Rock runners, young and old, ran across the official finish line with the other athletes from around the world who came to participate in the annual Seattle Marathon.
They were wrapped in space blankets just like all the other athletes and treated to a cup of soup and a bottle of water. A "first class" finish to a remarkable program. Not only did they learn to run, they learned to care.
The Seattle Marathon is also a fund-raiser for the Candlelight Childhood Cancer Foundation, which exists to educate, support and serve children with cancer and those who care for them. The Foundation provides everything from education programs to emergency assistance to families facing the heartbreak of cancer in children.
Runners and their families are encouraged to find sponsors for their efforts and the Eagle Rock athletes took that mission seriously. They cared because they ran and they ran because they cared.
For information on next year's program, contact the Seattle Marathon Association at www.seattlemarathon.org or call (206) 729-3660. More information on Candlelighters is available on their Website at www.candlelighters.org or call 1-800-366-2223.
The athletes of Eagle Rock K-5 Multi-Age can congratulate themselves on their completion of the Seattle Kids Marathon. They take with them from this athletic program the knowledge of how to run and how to achieve their goals with practice and persistence. They also learned how to care for children fighting cancer, who someday hope to run again.