Six Nations Running Pilot Project a huge success

Inspired by the legacy of Tom Longboat, the 11 month program yielded impressive results.

Even though he won the Boston Marathon nearly 100 years ago, Tom Longboat continues to inspire Six Nations runners. A new pilot project aimed at inspiring today’s Six Nations youth to run came to a successful conclusion last week.

The Six Nations Running Pilot Project evaluated the progress of 26 youths over the course of an 11 week period. The program was adapted from a Running Room learn-to-run clinc regimen and designed specifically for children aged 9-14. There was an emphasis on building endurance and strength without encountering injury.

The project also incorporated a weekly discussion about the history of Aboriginal athletes, which included Longboat’s period of marathoning dominance and various other Aboriginal athletes’ successes at the Olympic Games.

The combination of inspirational stories, discussions about healthy eating strategies and the 11 week running program delivered impressive results. The group went from running a one-mile timed run in the 50th percentile to the 75th percentile by the end of the program.

The project began back last March by the Sport Matters Group, a sports focused non-profit organization. The Running Room then offered their help, providing trainers. Nike chipped in by outfitting the runners through their N7 program. “Everyone involved wanted to give these kids the training to experience the thrill of a race and feel good about themselves and their place in the world,” said the Sports Matters Group’s Chris Jones.

The Running Room’s founder John Stanton offered his companies’ expertise and their clinic’s approach, which is typically geared towards adults. “We were happy to take our training program and adapt it to kids who were keen to learn.” Stanton added that a legacy such as Longboat’s is no doubt going to inspire many more successes in the future. “Tom put Canada on the world marathon map.”

The Ontario Trillium Foundation helped fund the project. The Six Nations Elected Council is now hoping to find a long term solution for a Six Nations Running Club.

Programs such as this could have a significant impact upon the health of the Six Nations community. A 2010 survey by the First Nations Information Centre revealed that aboriginal youth are not getting adequate access to healthy living oriented programs. 62% of aboriginal children aged 3-11 are overweight. That is nearly double the national average according to Statistics Canada.

Editor’s note: in a previous version of this story it was incorrectly stated that the program was 11 months long. It was in fact an 11 week program.