Elite runners visit Sanctuary on 8th, thrill students and teachers

Elite runners visit Sanctuary on 8th, thrill students and teachers
Lisa Davis, 6, races U.S. Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo as some of the country’s top runners paid a visit to children in the Sanctuary on 8th Street afterschool program March 10.

Some of the top-ranked runners in the world visited children in the afterschool program at Sanctuary on 8th Street on March 10 to share stories about their love of running and to participate with the kids in a fun-filled relay race.

As has become a tradition over the past eight years, Richard Clark Fannin, coordinator for the Gate River Run elite runners, brought the athletes to Sanctuary a day before the race. This year, more than 40 runners – including six Olympians – took part.

The event began with Lee Troop, a three-time Olympic marathon runner, getting the kids fired up with his infectious enthusiasm and thick Australian accent.

“I’ve been doing this program for about three or four years and it only happened by accident,” said Troop, who coaches the Boulder (Colorado) Track Club. “One year we came out here and Richard had lost his voice and asked me to come out to Sanctuary and do it.

“I think this is one of the greatest joys that any elite athlete can have – to give back to every community. We know that there are some people that aren’t as privileged as others, so to be able to come and spend some time speaking to the kids is rewarding.”

Sanctuary on 8th Street executive director Rick Cartlidge hands a composite photo bearing the signatures of three U.S. Olympians to 9-year-old Nate Davis following the runners’ visit.

After Troop helped build excitement, the runners formed a circle around the youngsters and one by one introduced themselves, noting their city and country of origin as well as why they love the sport. Included in the group were six 2016 United States Olympians: Emily Infeld (women’s 10,000 meters); Hillary Bor (men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase); Paul Chelimo (men’s 5,000 meters); Kim Conley (women’s 5,000 meters) along with Leonard Korir and Shadrack Kipchirchir (men’s 10,000 meters).

But it was Chelimo who garnered the most attention, particularly after donning the silver medal he won at last summer’s Rio Olympics.

“The silver medal was big, it was shiny and it was heavy,” said 10-year-old Kendyl Johnson. “It was heavier than the medals we always get when we win something. And I know that was a big reward for him for his success and never giving up.”

“Hopefully it motivates and inspires them and also helps the kids realize that things aren’t untouchable,” added Troop. “That they can actually see it, feel it, touch it and then who knows what can happen in the future.”

Chelimo said he relishes the opportunity to talk to children and enjoys the questions he gets – for the most part. “Today, I was asked why I didn’t win the gold medal,” the 26-year-old Kenyan-born American track star laughed. “It’s a good question and hopefully I can come back here one day and show them that gold.”

Sanctuary on 8th Street executive director and teacher Rick Cartlidge said he sees both the kids and athletes getting something positive out of the visits.

“I think it’s a great program,” he said. “The runners come here every year and are able to gain a relationship with the kids and there’s a tradition in place. It’s been a lot of fun over the last seven or eight years now and I think everyone involved enjoys it.”

By Robert DeAngelo
Resident Community News

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