MaraFun running program encourages personal growth, positive attitudes

·3 min read
A group of students take off running at the MaraFun event in 2018. (Torry Travis Photography - image credit)
A group of students take off running at the MaraFun event in 2018. (Torry Travis Photography - image credit)

When eight-year-old Rayna Cavanaugh steps up to the start line at Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon this weekend, she knows all she has to do is try her best.

Cavanaugh is one of 1,300 students in MaraFun, a program that gives young people an opportunity to participate in the Saskatchewan Marathon.

Eighty-four schools around the province are taking part. Each school has volunteer coaches who follow a program provided by MaraFun organizers.

Over the course of the six-week or 10-week program students run the total of a marathon distance, 42.2 kilometres.

CBC
CBC

The culmination of the training is a final two-kilometre race, done virtually or in-person as one of the Saskatchewan Marathon's events on May 29.

Cavanaugh has been training with the team from her school, École Victoria in Saskatoon. She enjoys practising with the group twice a week.

"You get stronger every time. It feels good because you're just getting better and better," said Cavanaugh.

"And you try to beat your old record and you make new ones and it feels really good every time."

You see their smiles as they run. It's amazing. - Jessica Anderson, MaraFun coach

 

A healthy attitude toward the sport is something coach Jessica Anderson has tried to cultivate in the students. Anderson and her fellow coach, vice-principal Paul Bazin, emphasize personal growth over competition.

"Sometimes kids will say, 'Madame, there's no way I can run three minutes,'" said Anderson. "And then by the end of it they realize, 'Oh, I can do it.'"

CBC News
CBC News

Anderson admits she also learns from the MaraFun practices.

"The funny ones are when kids look like they're dying, and then they're like, 'Madame, did you see me? I was running so fast.' In their mind, they are champion runners," said Anderson.

"And so I think as adults we could learn a lot from that because here we are with a negative self talk and the kids think 'I'm awesome at this.'"

Submitted by Jeff Culbert
Submitted by Jeff Culbert

Organizer Jeff Culbert says showing kids how they can lead a healthy lifestyle is what MaraFun is designed to do.

"Plus there is goal-setting involved," said Culbert. "It's a really positive and affirming program to encourage kids to not only be healthy, but to try something new and have fun with it."

MaraFun has been part of the Saskatchewan Marathon for more than a decade, but Culbert says this will be the first in-person event since 2019.

Students were eager to take part. Though some will choose the virtual option, there are 1,311 racers registered this year. Last year, fewer than 800 students took part.

CBC News
CBC News

Grade 3 student Zachary Quan has also been training for MaraFun.

"It feels good to burn off some energy and get my feet going," said Quan.

This is something that Anderson, who teaches kindergarten at Ecole Victoria, notices as well.

"When they go back to class, they're more focused. They're able to learn better," said Anderson.

"And really, you just see the smiles as they run. It's amazing."

CBC News
CBC News

While practices have been going well, the final two-kilometre race is what Anderson hopes will create a lifelong relationship with the sport.

"That's really what it's about for the kids." said Anderson. "When they experience this marathon day, they're going to be hooked on running."

As for Cavanaugh, she is looking forward to racing alongside her teammates.

"I hope we're going to do great," said Cavanaugh. "And everything's going to be amazing."

She also has some advice for her fellow MaraFun participants.

"Just never quit and try your best, always."

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