We Run This City: Grant will extend YMCA's youth marathon program to Lakewood

For 15 years, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) have partnered to get the city’s youth running and teach then to set and reach their goals through preparing them to run a marathon.

Since its founding We Run This City (WRTC), funded primarily through the Anthem Foundation, has worked with more than 1,000 students in 43 CMSD schools, preparing them to run in the Cleveland Marathon (formerly in the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon).

Earlier this month, The YMCA received a $42,000, two-year grant from the Three Arches Foundation to expand We Run This City to the Lakewood Family YMCA in a WRTC pilot program for students in grades six through 12—entailing free 12- to 18-week marathon training and nutrition education, as well as well as addressing physical health and social disengagement issues among teens.

Virgil Wahome, associate director of the Lakewood YMCA, will head up the pilot program. “We’re excited to offer this program to middle school students interested in running,” he says. “Our goal is to have 30 kids here in Lakewood.”

Wahome says he aims to get both the students and their families involved in the program, which will prepare the participants for the Cleveland Marathon as well as the Lakewood Summer Meltdown, an annual 5K race and one-mile family fun run and walk.

“We feel a lot of kids want to compete in scholastic sports,” says Wahome. “We Run This City helps build relationships, work toward a goal, and helps with kids’ mental states.”

Through the program, which begins in January, individual teams are formed at schools and are led by teachers or volunteer coaches, with assistance from YMCA coaches.

Each month students commit to a 5k run to prepare for the marathon. Students are provided with a training schedule with the suggest distances to help prepare for the marathon, as well as a nutrition guide.

Shoes, T-shirts, medals, and race fees are provided for free to every participant, but Wahome says they are recruiting volunteers and sponsors to help with coaching, covering the costs of clothing and race registrations, and travels.

“We’re starting to rev back up to get more people involved,” says Wahome, adding that We Run This City was suspended during much of the pandemic. “We’ve gotten a few emails already form people who want to get their kids involved. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Lakewood families will automatically receive the WRTC information packets. Parents can also email Virgil Wahome, or call (216) 521-8400, extension 265. Participants do no have to be a member of the YMCA to participate.

Wahome says he is excited to launch the program next month, even if he personally is not ready to start training for the marathon.

“It’s great to get this program off the ground,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m ready to pull out my running shoes just yet, but I do have a bicycle I can ride.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.