The Run Beyond Project underway in Nambucca Heads

CAN DO: Chris Barnes, Michelle Versluys. Karlie Swanson, Lilly McCormack, Charla Fitzpatrick and Leanna Brown. Photo by Christian Knight
CAN DO: Chris Barnes, Michelle Versluys. Karlie Swanson, Lilly McCormack, Charla Fitzpatrick and Leanna Brown. Photo by Christian Knight

STRETCH the hamstrings, apply the mind, grow the spirit - that's the ethos behind a new program at Nambucca Heads aimed at helping young people to be all that they can.

Called 'The Run Beyond Project', it's the brainchild of school teacher and distance running fanatic David Criniti, who saw the need and started the concept in Sydney.

He saw it as a bridge to engage refugee students in school life - and the program is now being rolled out to high schools across the land.

Just 10 weeks ago, 'Run Beyond Girls' took flight at Nambucca Heads High, where it's being championed by Michelle Versluys.

Five girls - aged 13 to 16 have signed up - and every Wednesday, together with noted runners Chris Barnes and Urunga sensation Karlie Swanson, the young chargers are put through their paces at EJ Biffin Oval.

"We do some theory, then some warms ups and oval runs," Michelle told the Guardian.

"The program is based on the principles of commitment, resilience and goal setting. We use running to build those skills and believe that those qualities carry over to life in general."

The Run Beyond Project sees participants sent some athletic gear, and the girls are particularly upbeat about the pending arrival of new running shoes.

To sharpen the focus, a specific goal is set for each group - and for the Nambucca Heads girls, it's the 10 kilometre road race at the Coffs Harbour Running Festival on September 8.

"That's one of the things, to finish a 'goal race' - right now we've been running from the Biffin fields to the information centre," Michelle said.

For their part, the girls were cautious about meeting the 10k challenge - at least for now ... before one chirped "probably by next week we'll be making that distance".

  • The Run Beyond Project was founded in 2015 when teacher and marathon enthusiast, David Criniti persuaded five of his Chester Hill High School students, all from refugee backgrounds, to go beyond what they thought possible and train for a half-marathon. It quickly developed into a program used by teachers in schools across Australia to help young people progress towards a goal, and acquire valuable skills which can be applied to enable them to excel in all areas of their lives, beyond the context of running.
  • If you are a school teacher and want to make a difference with your own project, contact@therunbeyondproject.com

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