Road Runners Battle Obesity, Build Esteem

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With the sun hoisted high over Icahn stadium May 15, nearly 2,000 kids from the five boroughs descended onto Randall’s Island for The New York Road Runners Jamboree day.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Mary Wittenberg, the club’s president and CEO—and she wasn’t kidding.

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the city. More children are plagued with inertia as they sit and play mindless video games all day instead of exercising. Not the altruistic youths of the Road Runners though. They ran, cheered and participated in the free-event for children between the ages of 4 and 15.

The day was filled with a variety of track and field events that went from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The club’s youth programs, like the “mighty milers” and the “young runners program,” encourage kids to get moving in as little as a 15-minute a day walk or a half-mile run and to reach milestones through incentives. Those programs are integrated into local schools and encourage kids of all levels to learn.

Throughout the day, the children who participated showed great fortitude as they charged toward the finish line and were resilient as they shook each other’s hands after each competition.

However, the day did not come to an end without an “agony of defeat” moment. That was at 1:40 p.m., when Arron Carlo from P.S. 246 took a commanding lead over Jack Makari from Booker T. Washington middle school in the 11-year-olds 400-meter run. Carlo was just yards from the finish when he fell and lost to Makari. But the fallen runner showed the character of what the day was all about when he picked himself up, finished the race and went on to accept second place

Without question, the premiere event of the day was the 4-year-olds 55-meter dash. The winner in the girl’s division went to little Prizila Negrete, the indisputable champion.

“I started running two years ago, but now I don’t have to wear diapers when I run,” she said.

Could a future Paula Radcliffe or New York’s own Kara Goucher be in the making?

P.S. 269 Principal Phyllis Corbin summed it up best when she said her passion was, “healthy minds and healthy bodies.”

She brought 38 kids from Newkirk Avenue in Brooklyn to participate in the event, along with school coach Kirk Clarke.

Corbin sat in the bleachers talking to Road Runners’ Laura Paulus about the significance of the group’s youth programs to inner city children. The programs are a platform for children that are invaluable and validate everything that this city and Mayor Bloomberg are striving towards in promoting health and the fight against child obesity.

The battle is on against trans-fats and salt, but the kids of New York City also have the world of running to help them build confidence, self-esteem and physical prowess and it is available for free. No matter what the outcome of each race, all the kids who participated in The Jamboree went home winners.

For more information on NYRR visit www.nyrr.org.

Chris Breslin is an actor and resident of the Upper West Side.

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