This past week was our final track meet held a Varsity Stadium in downtown Toronto. The Boys and Girls Club kids made their way from Cabbagetown to the University of Toronto’s campus for an afternoon track meet. They exited the bus and ran onto the track, amped to be there. One of the coolest things about this afternoon was that not only were the kids amped to be there, but so many of the mentors had never been inside the stadium before. They’d looked through the fence and taken pictures over the walls, but had never actually run on the track.

Our final week meant the kids of Lane 6 had made it to the big stage and our ultimate goal. Canadian Running and Nike had designed a high-level feeling track meet for the kids to show off the skills and techniques they had been working on for the past eight weeks.  The energy was incredibly high as the kids exited the bus, every kid running into the stadium straight through our trademark Lane 6 tunnel. Then the meet began.

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This week the mentors are doing the talking. Several of our mentors wrote us after the final week to express what a success they felt the programme had been. So here, in their words, what Lane 6 meant to them.

Sarah Xiao

Xiao had mentored the previous year’s session and was hesitant about coming back, as her mentee had been a little challenging the year before. But ultimately, she was glad she returned. Xiao said, “Week four was probably my most memorable week at Lane 6. Teams of four (two kids, two mentors) were assembled for a series of relays. Jeremiah [a Lane 6 participant] was first of the team to run, and unfortunately, midway through his run, his laces came undone and he had to stop. Suddenly, at the corner of my eye, I see Chase [her mentee] running across the field, yelling out, “Don’t worry Jeremiah, I’m coming to help you run!” I was so amazed and touched by Chase’s utter embodiment of camaraderie and teamwork. And best of all, it wasn’t prompted by anyone, he just knew he had to help his friend and the rest of his team.”

Photo: Aidas Odonelis

She continued, “During the last relay race, one of Chase’s shoes fell off, but he picked it up, continued to run (in one shoe and a sock), and finished the race. After taking a closer look at his shoes together after the race, I noticed that they were at least two sizes too big for him. My heart broke. Growing up in a single parent household as well, I too, had clothes that were larger as a means of saving money on clothing purchases.”

She finished, “Lane 6 has given back to me so much more this year. My mentee inspired, encouraged, and mentored me to be a better teammate in life and to keep running in the face of adversity.”

Photo: Aidas Odonelis

Elise Visentin

“Lane 6 inspired me to continue to find the fun in running, and set attainable goals. When I started volunteering with the program, I thought it was the kids who would catch the running bug, however, this experience also opened me up to a different type of running bug that I didn’t expect.”

Photo: Aidas Odonelis

“As a middle school teacher, I work with students around Jaden’s [her mentee’s] age daily, but mentoring combined my love for running and teaching. Being there for the mentees when they reached their running goals, no matter how big or small, was a rewarding experience. We helped them overcome challenges, see the importance of being physically active, and develop a passion for running. With this in mind, I am very appreciative of this opportunity, and it is my hope to continue to give back to the running community through volunteer experiences like this in the future.”

Canadian Running would like to thank everyone who made Lane 6 possible: Nike, Lonie at Eat, Train, Live, and our wonderful mentors and coaches. None of this would have been possible without you.