Youth Brian Tackles Half Marathon

After training for the Sun Run with our Life Skills Worker Rights of Passage (ROP) youth Brian completed the 10 kilometer race in an incredible 44 minutes! Brian was so excited about his performance that he wanted to take on the BMO Half Marathon (21km) which was to take place only two weeks later.

As Brian’s key worker and a runner myself, I was skeptical of Brian doing his first half marathon without a complete training program and with such a short gap between events. But Brian was persistent. He insisted that he was up for the challenge and ROP agreed to support him by helping him secure a last minute slot in the race.

On the morning of the half marathon, Brian got up at 6:00 am, grabbed an apple from the basket at the front desk on his way out the door, and left Covenant House Vancouver on his way to Queen Elizabeth Park for a 7am start.

Not long after, Brian found himself back in front of Covenant House as the racecourse led him down from Chinatown, up Pender Street, through Yaletown, and back around Stanley Park.  Brian called out to Covenant House staff standing outside as he passed; he was feeling fresh and running fast.

A big part of endurance sports is the ability to block out negative thoughts. As the body starts to break down it will send messages to the mind, trying to convince it to stop the pain. For most people these messages come in the form of “you are not prepared for this” or “it’s okay to walk”. Brian, however, does not seem to register such unconstructive self-talk. Rather, when he begins to feel the impact of a hard run, he will bark out orders to himself like “I’ve got this! Keep pushing! I’ve got this!”

Nearing the end of the run, a spectator said to Brian as he passed, “Only two more miles to go!” to which Brian replied “How long is two miles?” The spectator told him it was about 3 kilometres and Brian yelled out, “I’ve gotta go!” He finished the race stronger than he started it and ended up with a time of 1:34:25. Brian was euphoric, and rightfully so because, let me be clear, 1:34:25 is a superb half marathon time for any runner, let alone one who only trained to run half the distance, or most incredibly someone who is considered to be an “at-risk” youth.

But here’s why it is really important:

To me, this is an example of what can happen when young people receive praise for something they’re passionate about. I think of the different parts of a youth’s personality as drinking glasses lined up in a row, the water held in each glass representing their confidence in that area.

Since Brian is athletically inclined, he already has some confidence around sports – that glass is nearly full.  But his performance in the half marathon seemed to have him overflowing with confidence. And what happens when one glass in a row of glasses overflows? That water pours into the glasses next to it – into the other areas of the personality. Help a youth fill a glass that is meaningful to them and watch them soak up the excess.

picture of man running