By Michelle Sicurella
A new program launched last year for North Middle School’s adapted physical education students—the Achilles Kids International Marathon—was such an enormous success that there are plans to make it a yearly initiative.
Achilles Kids is a running program skillfully designed for students with disabilities to enable them to complete a full 26.2-mile marathon at their own pace. Several incentives kept students motivated and engaged, such as a digital map with a race route, five-mile bracelet awards, 10K drawstring bags, 13.1-mile medals, monthly awards, including MVP and MIP, and a pair of Adidas sneakers when the full marathon was complete.
The run was completed in segments. The North Middle students achieved their goal in five months, with total class mileage stretching 318 miles.
A culminating event was held at the school track in mid-May. Events included a 50-meter dash and a 100-meter relay. Members of the administration and staff joined the class to complete the final lap of the marathon, crossing the finish line in “Times Square.”
The run also encompassed several other subject areas, making it a truly interdisciplinary project.In art class, under the guidance of Kristin Kirleis, the students designed a poster of the New York City skyline; in health, working with Michelle Sicurella, they learned about healthy food and created oral presentations; and in music, Robin Golub taught them the words to “New York, New York,” which was sung at the Sneakers Awards ceremony.
The Achilles Kids running-walking-rolling program, developed in 1995 by Achilles International, is ongoing in more than 350 schools in the U.S., with more than 11,000 kids participating. The program is free and Achilles supplies all the training materials.
Michelle Sicurella is North Middle School’s health education department chair and adapted physical education teacher.