It’s no secret that Austinites thrive on the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of running. Crossing a race finish line and knowing what hard work it took to get there is unlike any other feeling of accomplishment.
Those health benefits and feelings of empowerment are what a group of local runners hopes to share with low-income middle and high school students across Austin. TEAM Rogue, the nonprofit arm of the popular Rogue Running training club, has started a free after-school running program called Marathon High.
In its pilot year, eight members of TEAM Rogue’s elite training team are coaching middle and high school girls from the Ann Richards School and high school students from Eastside Memorial High School to run the Austin Marathon in February.
“This is a way that Rogue could give back to the running community and create little runners,” said Ruth England, TEAM Rogue manager and one of the original founders of Rogue Running. “I was a schoolteacher for 10 years, and I know there are kids out there that don’t have a way to get involved in school sports.”
Right now, 50 students are participating in Marathon High. The coaches say their long-term goal is to expand to more low-income schools in AISD where students might not have the opportunity to participate in sports or may not have ever run a mile before. For Marathon High, it’s not about the finishing time or pace goal.
“We are not trying to push them to run a really fast time, we are trying to get them across the line,” said coach Carl Stones. “Exercise is really important to school performance and a well-balanced life. We are giving them a means to get into physical activity.”
Donations from the Austin community can help these students complete the program. Coach Jeff Knight said the $500 needed per student covers a variety of costs, including entry fees to five local races, two pairs of running shoes, transportation to races, athletic gear, snacks and water, and sports bras for girls.
“Some of the students are showing up in loafers, top siders or old basketball shoes,” he said. “And many them don’t get as many meals as they need, so providing the [snacks] becomes essential for these kids to go home and not be starving.”
Marathon High also incorporates nutrition lessons and encourages the young runners to keep a runner’s journal to track their progress. Knight said teachers have already told the coaches about the difference they can see in their students after working out with Marathon High.
“After you run your first marathon, there’s a feeling that you can do anything,” he said. “It’s so important that we get this off the ground and get kids to have that experience in the schools.”
You can support Marathon High by donating here.