In 2015, Australian teacher David Criniti began run-coaching a small group of his students at Sydney’s Chester Hill High School. Working as an English as an additional language teacher in the low socio-economic region of southwestern Sydney, David – who was teaching a number of students from diverse backgrounds, including refugees – found many were struggling to feel motivated to learn in the school environment. As a passionate runner since his teenage years, David believed that setting running goals could help his students to build integral skills of motivation, commitment and resilience beyond the sporting arena. Deciding on a distance that was challenging but achievable for his group, he set the goal of running the Cadbury Half Marathon in Hobart, Tasmania. The group celebrated achieving this goal in January 2016. From there, the Beyond Run Project came to life.
The Run Beyond Project is based around goal setting, resilience, motivation and commitment. We help students get to the finish line of a race, but also help them to set and achieve goals in other areas of their lives such as studying towards a career or learning practical skills around a hobby they enjoy.
Teachers signup their schools to our program through the website. They are then invited to a training day with me, where we go through the program booklets together covering all the teaching points. We discuss activities on goal setting, resilience, motivation and commitment – and how the students can build these skills. The program is conducted outside of school hours, showing a real commitment from both the students and teachers.
The first Run Beyond group was five students who I believed could benefit from inspiration and motivation.They were refugee students who were starting school in a new place, knowing very few people and little of the language. What happened from there grew organically. When we celebrated the achievements of the students at that first Cadbury Half Marathon, a number of colleagues from different schools got in contact. They, too, knew students who could benefit from the program and wanted to introduce it to their schools.
We have since launched our program in 21 schools across two states – New South Wales and Queensland – and had 193 graduates from the program.Now, students are generally 13-17 years old, and evenly split between girls and boys. We work with kids from diverse backgrounds: from regional areas, Indigenous backgrounds and out of home care [children who don’t live with their parents].
The activities help students consider life goals beyond the context of running. It is a set program – but we invite each teacher to bring their own style and dynamic into teaching their students. The beauty of the program is that it is implemented by teachers in their schools – the people who know the kids best.
Students tell us they achieve a sense of belonging to a team, when they take part in our program. Many say they have never felt that before. They experience feelings of accomplishment doing something they didn’t believe they could do. It gives them confidence to achieve more in other aspects of their lives.
We provide all our students with apparel and shoes. It helps them see they are a part of the Run Beyond community. And it gives them a sense of pride, which is compounded when they see people show up to races and cheer them on.
The Run Beyond Project also enriches the local running community. To see a more diverse range of faces gracing our start lines makes Australia’s running events richer. It’s a wonderful thing to open people’s eyes to the stories that brought our students to the start line. This is a brilliant aspect to what we do. Being able to start a race is a privilege a lot of us take for granted.
Our goal is to operate in all states in the country. We are building a community of partners who support us, and we couldn’t do this work without them. As news of our work spreads, and we get more partners on board, we can invite more kids to be involved – and get even more students to thrive beyond the finish line.
Find out more about The Run Beyond Project.