A pilot project of ‘Mighty Milers’ initiates school children to running, guided by New York Road Runners

It’s past 3 p.m. when 30 children from Prakasham Vidya Niketan at Anand Nagar Colony, Khairatabad, come together at a playground in the vicinity of their school. This isn’t a regular sports session, but their chance to get tips on running, nutrition and fitness from Lyncia Beggs and Jordan Patinkin of New York Road Runners (NYRR) group. The school’s physical education instructor guides the children through warm-up exercises before they begin a session of running. These sessions are an outcome of a tie-up between Hyderabad Runners Society (HRS) and NYRR.

NYRR has a full-fledged programme in New York, targeted at school children, called Mighty Milers, which introduces children to running. An initiative to inculcate a healthy lifestyle and fight childhood obesity, Mighty Milers is in its seventh year in New York. This is the second time Mighty Milers is being introduced outside of USA. “A smaller programme was conducted in South Africa. In Hyderabad, the scale is larger,” says Jordan, a programme administration coordinator of NYRR.

Jordan and Lyncia have been conducting training sessions with the help of physical education instructors in each of the participating schools. The 12-week module has three sessions per week, with a duration of 40 to 60 minutes. “This is a goal-based initiative and we’ve set a target of 36kms and are considering stepping it up to 42 so that it would add up to a marathon,” says Lyncia, a programme supervisor with NYRR.

Students are guided to set targets for themselves and track their progress through an online database. Mighty Milers follows a holistic approach to running, and also focuses on nutrition. “We talk about foods that will give children the energy required for running,” says Jordan. School teachers and volunteers from HRS have helped the duo customise the nutrition programme to Indian conditions.

In each participating school, students have reacted with enthusiasm. Jordan and Lyncia are aware they have to sober down children’s eagerness to run for long durations. Jordan says with a smile, “When we ask children how much they intend to run, some of them say they want to run 20km at a stretch. Once they begin, they know it’s not easy. We like the energy they bring into the programme, but we exercise caution keeping in mind their age and stamina.”

The HRS is five years old and the members were eager to make running popular in the city. “What better way than to introduce running to school children?” asks Rajesh Vetcha of HRS. This 12-week module is a pilot programme and the HRS hopes to roll it out to 100 schools in the city by June 2013.

They run, so they are

Lyncia Beggs and Jordan Patinkin from New York Road Runners (NYRR) are on a short visit to Hyderabad to introduce Mighty Milers to students with the help of Hyderabad Runners Society volunteers. NYRR is the largest running club with 70,000 members and the organiser of New York Marathon.

Schools part of the programme are: Oakridge (Gachibowli); Meridian (Madhapur); Sancta Maria (Lingampally); Prakasham Vidya Niketan (Anand Nagar Colony, Khairatabad) and Rishi Valley School (Madanapalle).