Discovery Elementary students finish marathon in months

November 30, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Discovery Elementary School students Kiley Prutzman (left) and Anjai Bhuthpur run laps around the school baseball diamond during lunch recess. By Katie McDorman

A total of 30 students laced their shoes, stretched their legs and — during a two-month period — ran a marathon.

Discovery Elementary School first-grade teacher Reyna Yamamoto started the running club in late September, teaching her students how to warm up and cheering them on as they ran laps around the school’s baseball diamonds during lunch recess and early morning Thursday practices.

Just as in walkathon, students carried cards marking their progress. Every six laps around the diamonds equals one mile, and the students tried to run at least three miles per week, gaining endurance and confidence for the Nov. 27 Seattle Marathon.

For those who had accrued enough miles, the 1.2-mile Seattle Children’s Kids Marathon pushed the Discovery students to reach the 26.2-mile mark.

Yamamoto said she had wanted to form a running club for years, but could never make it to the Seattle Marathon, held during Thanksgiving weekend, because she was usually out of town. This year, she decided to stay home, and found a bevy of parent volunteers to help her coach her students.

“I like to run marathons myself,” Yamamoto said. “It’s my passion.”

Locally, she has run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the Seattle Half Marathon and the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. She and parent Lisa Scher, an iron-man coach, taught the students essential stretches before and after their workouts. Discovery physical education teacher Nick Lombardo taught them about pacing, as well as stretching.

“I like the monster walk,” first-grade student Anjali Bhuthpur said, demonstrating how to walk forward with both her feet and hands on the ground.

Her classmate, Sydnee Campbell, said she always stretches now before running.

“If you don’t stretch, you won’t run long enough,” she said. “You’ll get tired out real quickly.”

At first, only seven students joined the club, but as word spread, more joined, bringing the number to 30. Some middle school students who have younger siblings at Discovery have also joined the running club, logging their hours every week.

“I never knew what a marathon was so I wanted to have the experience,” fifth-grader Isha Kshirsagar said.

Yamamoto decided students shouldn’t get caught up in how fast they were running, but that they should warm up and cool down properly, as well as learn how to ambitiously follow a project for weeks on end.

“We weren’t concentrating on pace, we were concentrating on setting a goal,” she said.

Once students paid $16.50 to register for the children’s marathon, they received tokens for every five miles they ran. The marathon also had a reading and a “Do Right” program — a curriculum encouraging runners to do the right thing, and although Yamamoto did not require her students to participate in either this year, she said she might in years to come.

Participants also received T-shirts, and bragging rights, of course.

The students joined for myriad reasons, some to get exercise and others to spend time with their friends.

“I thought it would be fun to just run,” third-grader Molly Petz said.

Parent volunteer Katie McDorman, a runner herself, said she likes to see her daughter Emily McDorman run with her classmates.

“It’s just a healthy habit,” Katie McDorman said.

Yamamoto said running helped her gather her thoughts, and hoped it would be equally gratifying for her students.

“I love running because it keeps me fit, but also I jokingly say it’s my self therapy,” Yamamoto said. “It’s my relief time. It’s when I do my best thinking. It’s something I absolutely love.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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