TAMPA – The Bob Sierra Family YMCA is going all out to battle childhood obesity. It’s starting to pay off.
The YMCA is hosting a free program for fourth- and fifth-graders to prepare them to run a 2K race at the Gasparilla Distance Classic Feb. 23. The children will start their run once the half-marathon is completed.
Bob Sierra YMCA Director Michelle Sussman said there are 25 kids planning to make the 2K run. There are two running coaches working with the kids.
“The real goal is to watch these kids see it all through,” Sussman said. “A lot of kids can’t do something like this, but it gives them confidence.”
Sussman said that she is hoping the children get their confidence by doing the best they can with limited stopping. About half of the runners in the club can make it two miles without stopping. They run every Tuesday and Friday after school.
All of the Hillsborough County YMCAs are having programs at different levels to prepare their members for the Gasparilla Distance Classic. At the Bob Sierra, the classes started in November.
It wasn’t easy at first.
“The kids didn’t know how to pace themselves,” Sussman said. “They just wanted to run as fast as they could and didn’t realize that running that far isn’t so easy. Now, with coaching, they have learned how to pace themselves. Some of them might walk for a bit, but they still have about a month to go before race day.”
At the end of the half-marathon, the Bob Sierra kids will congratulate the finishers at the end. Once they are finished, some of the half-marathoners are expected to greet the kids.
It’s a big part of the battle on obesity.
“It teaches them team work,” Sussman said. “They run with buddies, they are learning that it takes proper nutrition to compete in an event like this, and they are learning that sleep is important as it relates to being a better runner and a healthier kid. It’s a win-win situation.”