Great Strides

A Sis­ter­hood of Run­ners

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - By Ta­nia Haas Ta­nia Haas is a prac­tic­ing yogi, run­ner and jour­nal­ist work­ing and liv­ing in Toronto

One of my best prac­tices was last week when I ran 2k with­out stop­ping,” says Bersabel Eyob Og­bazghi, 17. “I never thought I would be able to run that much. It made me re­al­ize I can do any­thing if I prac­tice and never give up.” Og­bazghi is one of 14 teenage girls set to run their first 5k in Oc­to­ber backed by a Park­dale sis­ter­hood in Toronto, ded­i­cated to men­tor­ship through move­ment. The girls are part of the New­comer Youth Pro­gram at West Neigh­bour­hood House ( wnh), the meet­ing place for weekly Wed­nes­day runs and train­ing.

En­durance train­ing, char­ac­ter build­ing, friendship form­ing

“When­ever I run I get the chance to es­cape and not think about my prob­lems,” says Mari Claire Nanawa, 16. “I just fo­cus on run­ning and think about how won­der­ful it is to be in this group where you can be your­self.”

Kia Ungab, a Grade 11 stu­dent, ex­plains how the train­ing ses­sions have led to sur­pris­ing out­comes.

“I like how we go home to­gether af­ter the run and buy mo­mos (Ti­betan dumplings) and talk about school, and also boys. My most favourite part is right af­ter we fin­ish a run and we give high-fives to each other while telling fin­ish­ers they did a re­ally good job,” says Ungab. “Hear­ing those words feels re­ally great. It feels like an achieve­ment.”

From fundrais­ing to foun­da­tional re­la­tion­ships

Hear­ing this feed­back leaves Anya Taraboulsy with all sorts of feels. Taraboulsy helped found this club with other vol­un­teers from the Park­dale Road­run­ners ( pdrr) Ladies Run Crew af­ter the 300k Ni­a­gara Rag­nar Re­lay in the spring of 2017. The 12-mem­ber team wanted to raise money to sup­port a lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion. They even­tu­ally chose the wnh be­cause it served women and teenage girls, and fo­cused on pro­mot­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Founded in 1912, wnh is a non-sec­tar­ian agency that sup­ports im­mi­grant fam­i­lies (more than 60 cul­tures and over 40 lan­guages) through com­mu­nity pro­grams and so­cial ser­vices, es­pe­cially for in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies liv­ing on a low or fixed in­come. The pdrr team raised over $5,000, which went on to sup­port wnh’s New­comer Youth Pro­gram. The crew then de­cided to men­tor in­ter­ested girls to­ward a fall race. “We all knew that we could do a lot more than just raise money,” says Taraboulsy. Nike do­nated shoes and clothes, and se­cond-hand cloth­ing was col­lected from the pdrr. The call went out, and cu­ri­ous teens showed up.

Di­ver­si­fied train­ing: mind, body, so­cial

Since July, ev­ery Wed­nes­day ses­sion has in­cluded a run or ed­u­ca­tional ses­sion led by a mem­ber or friend of the pdrr – yoga classes, trail runs, nu­tri­tion and men­tal re­silience train­ing. Many mem­bers of the crew are new to Toronto, first gen­er­a­tion Cana­di­ans and English is not their first lan­guage.

“Some of our girls have been i n Toronto only a few months, so our routes in­tro­duce them to places they’ve never been be­fore,” says Taraboulsy. “We also pro­vide a space where the girls can talk about their goals, fears and all their train­ing ques­tions.”

“I want these girls to feel em­pow­ered and to be proud of how strong they are and what they can ac­com­plish with a lit­tle sweat,” says Melissa Dol­dron, one of the pdrr vol­un­teers.

“We wanted to chal­lenge them, help them set a goal, work to­ward it and – prob­a­bly most im­por­tantly – sup­port each other along the jour­ney,” says Me­lanie Boatswain-Wat­son, an­other pdrr vol­un­teer. “The ladies of pdrr have gained so many in­cred­i­ble friends and ex­pe­ri­ences thanks to run­ning, and we wanted to pass that sense of com­mu­nity through run­ning to the girls.”

The pdrr el­ders have en­sured the tra­di­tion of “no one left be­hind” and high-f ive tun­nels at the f in­ish of ev­ery run. In just a cou­ple months, it’s be­come clear that run­ning is much more than en­durance train­ing, but a con­duit to com­mu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to re­search, it’s boost in other ways, too.

A 2013 study led by the Cen­tre for Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health showed that girls with men­tors were four times less likely to be bul­lies or get in fights than girls with­out a men­tor. It’s likely the ben­e­fits of this club will be seen far be­yond the track or gym class.

Og­bazghi may not yet see all the pro­gram’s re­wards, but she has no­ticed one change.

“I used to think, ‘ Oh my god, it’s Wed­nes­day to­day, should I make an ex­cuse not to go?’ But now I wait for Wed­nes­days to come so that I can meet up with the rest of the team and push my­self even harder.”

Park­dale’s West Neigh­bour­hood House pdrr youth girl run crew is set to run the Sco­tia­bank 5k in Toronto on Oct. 22.

ABOVE Park­dale Road Run­ners Girls youth pro­gram

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.