Running and reading are coming together for students at Metea Valley as the Aurora high school embarks on a schoolwide reading program featuring the book "Running the Edge."
While most such reading programs end with a group discussion of the book, this one will culminate June 1 with a 5K race open to students, staff and the community.
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The program got its start as authors Tim Catalano and Olympian Adam Goucher discussed their book's message of self-improvement with about 150 community members Thursday night and the Metea student body Friday during English periods.
"Their message is applicable to especially high schoolers who are figuring out who they are and what they want to do," said English teacher and girls cross country and track coach Eric Anerino, who worked with language arts department chairwoman Diane Tancredi to develop the running/reading program.
"It's about life, and they really align it to our Metea LIFE message," he said.
The acronym stands for "live with integrity, inspire passion for learning, foster positive relationships and expect equity and excellence for all."
Goucher and Catalano spoke a lot about excellence, discussing how to "be amazing" by following a four-step model, which they expressed in creative phrases that often required some explaining.
Their first step, however, was perfectly clear: strive for ambitious goals.
"Take on big challenges just to see if you can do it," Goucher said. "The bigger they are, the better -- within reason."
Step two, "Don't be a frog," required a bit of translation.
The authors told the fable of the boiled frog, which says a frog dropped in lukewarm water heated slowly will be boiled alive because it won't realize it needs to escape until too late. The lesson: don't allow bad habits to worsen over time.
"We have to avoid settling for less than our ideal form of amazing," Catalano said.
Step three, "Ignore the governor so you can be a free chicken," needed the most explanation, but Catalano and Goucher said it encourages people to ignore self-limiting beliefs to set themselves free and reach their full potential.
Taylor Majher, a 16-year-old junior who runs cross country and track at Metea, said she has read "Running the Edge" and heard its authors speak twice before. She said she gained the most from the last aspect of Friday's presentations, which the authors described as a "be-do-have" philosophy.
Be-do-have opposes the philosophy the authors said students are socialized to follow -- have-do-be -- which focuses on gaining possessions as the route to being happy.
Majher summed it up this way: "You have to be the person you want to be so you can have the things you want to have and have a great life," she said. "It's so true. I've seen it in my life."
Students excited by Catalano and Goucher's presentation could sign up to order an autographed copy of the "Running the Edge," and after three of eight presentations, more than 50 students had done so, Tancredi said.
"I think it's going to be a lot more contagious," than book choices for previous school wide-reading programs, which were conducted over the summer, Tancredi said.
Conducting the program during the year will allow more multidisciplinary involvement, Tancredi said. Reading the book and running the race both are optional, but the themes will be woven into many aspects of the average student's day.
Physical education teachers are offering a "Try a Tri" course that will include a running component. Health classes will discuss nutrition for runners. Marketing students are designing promotional materials for the 5K, which Catalano and Goucher will run along with participants who sign up at active.com by May 30.
Students and teachers can form teams for the race, and a group will meet three times a week after school beginning Monday to train for the event. Anerino designed a training program along the lines of the popular couch-to-5K plans that will help those who are inactive prepare to run 3.1 miles without stopping.
The authors ended their presentation with one last motivational message, which they say can be applied to running or any goal in life:
"Go be amazing."