Streetfront Conquers Seattle – 2013 Edition
For the 12th consecutive year, Streetfront has driven down to Seattle to have our students run the Seattle Marathon. Things have changed in those 12 years; instead of one boy running alongside his teacher as happened in 2001, this year we had 10 kids running the full (42.2 km) and 3 running the half marathon (21.2 km). We also had 2 wonderful volunteers running the races with the students: Ben Proctor, a super committed volunteer has been training with the kids all year and Brandon Steele, a VPD Officer and marathon trainer extraordinaire.
The trip begins Friday night with the annual Black Friday Sleepover – this is when the kids who are heading down to Seattle stay over Friday night to avoid the reality of sleeping in. The portable becomes filled with the sights, sounds and smells of a dozen kids who have trained, laughed and struggled together for months or years. Waking up at 5:15 am to pack up, we are met by the other Streetfronters who got themselves to the portable right on departure time.
Barry drives the bus and we head to the border. Hold our breath and enter the USA. Our first stop is the outlet mall. For most of the kids this is a special time – rarely do they get to participate in the consumer hoopla of Black Friday. Most have a tiny bit if cash while many have none, so we try to give them all around $40 American, so they can consume like everyone else.
Once the shopping is done, we make a b line to the Marathon Expo where all the kids and staff will volunteer for 4 hours. This volunteer commitment is a huge part of the weekend. The Seattle Marathon Association comps ALL of our entry fees to the marathon (over $2000 worth) because of the kid’s effort at the Expo.
After volunteering, a huge team meal is planned. Reminiscing about previous marathon experiences and re-telling Streetfront stories, the evening is so special. I sit back and am beyond proud that I’ve been able to witness every aspect of this. We wallow out, bellies full, heading towards the hotel to get prepared for tomorrow’s race.
The half marathoners start at 7:30 am so we are up at 6 am consuming as many calories as possible. The fulls are up at 6:30 doing likewise. A palpable nervous energy fills every room. Everybody is trying to eat but most can’t, the nerves getting the best of them. Before anybody is ready, they are out the door and heading to the start line.
The anthem will be sung and the runners off. We stand out. Most of my kids are aboriginal, insanely poor and 25 years younger than the average marathoner. But once the race starts, all of the runners have but one goal – finish as quickly as possible. Some of my kids will finish in 4 hours and 15 minutes, like William Vu, who completed his 10th marathon with me, yes 10!!!!) and others will pass out at 26 km but then regain their composure and finish all 42.2 kms in 5 hours and 45 minutes, like first-timer Shivnay Chandra did, tears streaming down his face because he thinks I’ll be disappointed with his effort. Regardless of their time, every single student had the courage to do something that less than 1 out of every million high school students will do – that is run a marathon. That’s amazing, isn’t it? More amazing – I’ve had over 125 of these marathons completed by kids like these over the last 12 years.
I’m a blessed man, that I know. I hope you are impressed by these kids because I would challenge you to find a more accomplished group of Vancouver students than them. In my eyes, none are finer.
Thanks for reading,
Teacher – Streetfront Alternative Program