When a few teachers at my middle school broached the idea of starting a chapter of Students Run LA, I thought the concept was nuts. Who had ever heard of 7th and 8th graders running an entire marathon? Especially students from our school, smack in the middle of South Central LA where there were few models for success. However, we decided to put our madness into action. We began training students in September for March's Los Angeles Marathon. At our first practice, we ran for 10 minutes. Over the months, the students improved immensely. They successfully completed a 5k, then a 10k, and another race each month (such as the Orange County Half Marathon). We started running 15 miles on Sundays around USC, building up to practicing four days a week. The school rallied behind these kids. Marcos never stopped running, once choosing to run home from school after our return from a half marathon. Omar, a special ed. student, became intensely focused in class. John, a self-admitted slacker who at first wore shorts that nearly reached his ankles even in races, saw he could be successful and turned into the fastest runner on the team. And Damaris lived out her nickname of "Miss Independent," her self-confidence rubbing off on everyone around her. In the end, 10 students completed the entire LA Marathon (along with 6 staff - four who were first timers). Everyone who started finished. Plenty of family came out, and cried when their kids finished. Students wore their finishers medals to school the next day and smiled as they limped along. And within a week, they were back to running. We would like to commemorate their accomplishments by presenting each student with a plaque with their official finishers photo and engraved with their names, along with a plaque for the school with a team picture. Neither the families nor the coaches have the money to do this on our own (the coaching position is unpaid, despite the months of work and the expenses involved with food, supplies, transportation, etc.) Thus, your help will enable students and the school to always remember that these students truly are heroes and can overcome all challenges to accomplish amazing things in their lives.
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