Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Underdog

This weekend, our students completed either a Half Marathon or a 4-Mile Super Swim in the ocean. In the beginning of the semester, they chose either "swim track" or "run track" and began training for their events.The students have spent the entire 100 days training for these events (on top of their vigorous school work). I volunteered to support both of these events.

On Sunday, I got up at 4 am and promptly locked myself out of my house at 4:15 am to head to the support meeting for the Half Marathon. I was going to be a "roving bicycle" throughout the event. I didn't take any photos, but my experience was amazing. I had some great conversations with students. One of the moments I enjoyed was when a student was telling me that the run felt like he was back home in NJ and that he felt like he was running home at that very moment. Then, he got very philosophical on me and said "Well, I guess in a way, I am running home."  Another favorite moment was when I was riding with two girls 5 miles out from the finish. They were both struggling - one had the worst shin splints and the other confessed to not drinking enough water the day before. I gave them both electrolyte pills and some encouraging words. A few sweeper vans passed by and I told them it would be okay if they dropped out, but neither wanted to. Near the finish, the girl with the shin splints asked if it was okay that she walked to mile 13 and then sprint to the finish. I told her that this was a great plan and she meekly asked "does this still count as running a half marathon?" I made sure she knew how proud I was of her and that OF COURSE it still counted as running a half marathon! She finished so strong and crossed the finish line in tears. The students waited at the flagpole (their finish line) until every student crossed. And every student finished - no one dropped out - under three hours! I am so proud of all of them.

Photo Credit: The Island School

During the Super Swim (on Monday, so I guess not the weekend), I was boat support for the last pair of swimmers. I had 6 students on board with me and they were quite quiet in the beginning. However, after we followed the last buddy pair to the turnaround, the excitement grew. The kids on my boat were cheering as loud as they could, dancing, jumping in the water, and being incredibly supportive. This energy kept up until our pair finished - under 4 hours - and we headed back to the boathouse. This swim was amazing, though, for reasons more than just the support and excitement the students felt for one another. Everyone who participated in this swim finished this event as well. But, there is one boy who really stands out. This student came to the Island School 97 days ago and could not swim. On Monday, he finished a 4-mile swim in the ocean and did not finish last. Another thing that made that moment so special? Jack Johnson was there to witness it and support him. Jack Johnson had been on campus all weekend as part of our Youth Island Action Summit against plastic pollution. He was pinned as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNEP and decided he wanted to compete in the swim as well. He shared this touching photo on Instagram

"Jack couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate #WorldOceansDay than by waking up and jumping in the water for a four-mile swim with friends and ocean advocates. Jack was most excited about his new friend, Jeremy, who learned to swim just 97 days ago and crossed the finish line with everyone!  @thetorpedopeople and all the @theislandschool kids"

My heart is so full and when I saw that photo and caption, I was almost moved to tears. I am so proud of all of these students and what they accomplished. I also think that this has motivated me to volunteer for more races when I move back to a place where races are offered more frequently. 

Have you ever volunteered for a race? What was your favorite moment?