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With Canadian kids getting fatter every day, these folks are trying to get them to go play outside.
December 17, 2010 1:01 AM   Subscribe

Since approximately 26% of Canadian children age 2-17 are now considered obese, few would disagree that drastic measures are warranted. A dude and his wife have decided that the best way to inspire kids to get some exercise outdoors is to run daily marathons across the country.

Colin Harris and Sarah Powell are a husband-wife-team who founded the Take Me Outside Project, which aims to promote outdoor physical education. Colin is about to embark on a run across Canada, doing a 40km marathon ever day, stopping at schools across the country to promote outdoor activity.

Their goal has resonated with many Canadians, who successfully voted their organization into the finals for the Aviva Community Fund Prize in the medium-cost range. Which, if they're chosen, might give them enough money to buy enough powerbars, gatorade and post-run-physiotherapy which Colin will no-doubt be needing after he runs across one of the longest countries in the world.
posted by sarastro (41 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Okay, it's a sweet, sincere idea, but the video in the second link is like some weird parody trailer for Where The Wild Things Are, with this marathoner as Max, and all these obese children as the monsters.
posted by Corduroy at 1:40 AM on December 17, 2010


*obese = thin.
posted by Corduroy at 1:42 AM on December 17, 2010


Stefaan Engels runs a marathon a day, every day, 207 and counting

The marathon man is not alone in his attitude or in his desire to push his body and mind to painful places just to see what happens when and if they get there. Dr. Andrew Murray, a physician from Edinburgh, recently ran the length of Hadrian’s famous wall in record time to train for a longer run he has planned for November. The good doctor wants to jog from Scotland to the Sahara desert — in 85 days. That works out to about 100 marathons and, naturally, would add a new entry to Guinness’ famous book.

Back in Canada, a mining engineer named Martin Parnell from Cochrane, Alta., is 158 marathons into a quest to run 250 marathons in a single year. Mr. Parnell is raising money for Right to Play, a charity that promotes sports for kids in impoverished places.


As a long distance runner myself, this doesn't seem like entirely unselfish charity, but more like a personal challenge. The Belgian at least seems honest about his motivation:

His motivation is scientific.

“For me, it is an experiment for myself, an experiment with my mind to find out what is possible or not,” he says. “And, after eight months, I think this is possible. I say a man can do something big if he wants to. I say go for it and take some risks.”

posted by three blind mice at 2:01 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What exactly is the point of being healthy enough to run 250 marathons per year if you're going to spend your life running 250 marathons per year?
posted by unigolyn at 2:11 AM on December 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't think this means what you think it means.

Wow, thanks, never knew this. Less than two years ago I discovered "peruse" meant the opposite of its common usage. As a wannabe English-usage pedant, I'm amazed I'm still learning stuff.

run daily marathons

I initially thought "run" meant "organise" and then I'm all "run" means "run... OMG they're going to run a marathon DAILY that's insane!"

Then I click on the link and I find that "run" meant "organise."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:14 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


British comedian Eddie Izard also recently did 43 consecutive marathons around the UK for the charity Sports Relief. Here is an excerpt from the program made about this.

If, like me, you are somebody who is astounded by achievements like this then you might be interested in the Daniel Leiberman's Running Man Theory of Human Evolution. This is the idea that the thing which gave homo-sapiens the unique edge over the (bigger, tougher and possibly smarter) competition was our ability to do endurance running: we can run all day after an animal until it collapses from exhaustion - and we are smart enough to track individual animals in a herd so that we keep pursuing the same one. Pursuit hunting is now limited to only a very few tribal groups - but we have this vestigial endurance running capability which lets us cover these amazing distances
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Apparently childhood obesity in the U.S. is 33%. So America still beats Canada.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:21 AM on December 17, 2010


Dear Lord. Marathons, awareness, Arcade Fire. Are we playing White Person Bingo? Because I just won White Person Bingo.
posted by dgaicun at 3:28 AM on December 17, 2010


Running a marathon every day? Pffft. Call me when you're doing it with one leg.

(Sorry, no "running across Canada" post is complete without Terry Fox!)
posted by cider at 4:08 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


no "running across Canada" post is complete without Terry Fox!

Funny, I recently added one-legged jump-rope to my workout routine. It is humbling, to say the least, and gave me a whole new sense of admiration for Terry Fox.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:33 AM on December 17, 2010


Yeah, one of the few things that can make me teary-eyed is Terry Fox memorials. I have known marathon enthusiasts in my time, and they always seem to spend months in training for the marathon, talk endlessly about the marathon, document their marathon, and then spend weeks recovering from the marathon. Then I think about this guy who ran a marathon one day, then got up and ran one the next day, and the next, and the next, until the cancer claimed him. And he did it one on leg.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:50 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I initially thought "run" meant "organise" and then I'm all "run" means "run" [...] Then I click on the link and I find that "run" meant "organise."

So my second guess was correct after all? That's what some of you are saying.

I hope it's not staring me in the face and I look like an idiot, but I click the run daily marathons link and I can't find an answer. A v.rudimentary click around the site didn't bring me any further joy.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:10 AM on December 17, 2010


Or, instead of running a bunch of marathons, they ask the Canadian government to ban soft drinks and sugary snacks.

Heavy tariffs on American Corn Sugar (the Sugar previously known as HFCS)?
posted by The Giant Squid at 5:38 AM on December 17, 2010


Less than two years ago I discovered "peruse" meant the opposite of its common usage.

I just discovered it now. However, there are some that would argue that a word's common usage is what it means.
posted by Trochanter at 6:10 AM on December 17, 2010


So my second guess was correct after all? (uncanny hegemon):

The post says "Colin is about to embark on a run across Canada, doing a 40km marathon ever day." I'm at work, so I can't spend a lot of time on the sites, but I assume that sarastro got that information from somehwere?
posted by cider at 6:14 AM on December 17, 2010


So many people my age refuse to let their kids walk to school, ride a bike, or play at the neighbourhood park on their own out of fear that they're going to be abducted or something. What they should fear is turning their offspring into over-fed and sedentary agoraphobics.
Helicopter parenting kills kids.
posted by Pseudonumb at 6:26 AM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that running a marathon every day is worse for your health than obesity.
posted by callmejay at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2010


The post says "Colin is about to embark on a run across Canada, doing a 40km marathon ever day."

Thanks. I was pontificating the FPP and perusing its links. I neglected to read the [more inside] part. So I'll meet you half way, cider? I'm kind of an idiot.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:43 AM on December 17, 2010


twoleftfeet: "Apparently childhood obesity in the U.S. is 33%. So America still beats Canada."

U S A!! U S *wheeze* *gasp*

This is of course a race that nobody wants to win. I can't believe that over the last 25 years, the Canadian youth obesity rates have nearly tripled - I'd heard double, but the gov't website says it's worse than that. It's too bad that we don't have the kind of politicians on either side of the House who would put forward an initiative like we had in the 1970s, the Canada Fitness Test. Unlike the US' Presidential Fitness Test, which continues on, ours got canned quite a while back. Odd since I believe that the Presidential Fitness Test was modeled on our program.

The Canada Fitness Program was a series of tests such as Chin-ups, Shuttle Run, 50m Dash, Endurance Run, Speed Situps or the feared 'flexed-arm hang.' It was the only time in school that I ever felt that we weren't just being kept busy by the Phys Ed teacher - I mean, we were striving for Bronze, Silver, Gold, or the Queen Mother of all achievements; the "Award of Excellence." And the teacher was actually writing our scores down, and comparing it to how we did last year. Even perennial 'Participation Sticker' kids like me would actually practice things like flexed-arm-hang on our own at the monkey bars so we'd go up a notch next time.

Apparently not everyone felt the same though. (More positive recollections are on p. 3 of the comments)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:50 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or, instead of running a bunch of marathons, they ask the Canadian government to ban soft drinks and sugary snacks.


As long as potato chips are left you will be out of luck.

Seriously though it is time people gave up on the food regulation attempts. If you deny people a few categories of food they will eat something else.

The real reason most people gradually become obese is that people have become more and more sedentary as we have gotten more and more efficient at conserving our energy. You are not fat because of corn syrup. You're fat because you have a remote control, a clapper, a cordless home phone, a mobile phone, email and IM, grocery delivery and grocery superstores, air conditioning, and amazon that let you live your entire life without even getting up and worst of all you probably have a car with cheap gas which is essentially a portable couch.

People didn't use to have to exercise as a specific separate activity unless they were fitness buffs. They got exercise by living a normal life back before garage doors opened themselves.

So if you want your kids to not be obese you have to change to an inefficient lifestyle. Lose your remote. Make your kids get up and adjust rabbit ears to receive terrestrial tv. Make your kids walk to school. Make them cycle to their friends house. Get rid of the garage door opener. Get a push lawnmower.

You will never get most people to be healthy by promoting marathons or fitness simply because most people are not interested in spending a couple of hours a week specifically on exercising. At the level of nanny state interventions the best bet is finding ways to encourage or force inefficiency. Promoting cycling and walking while punishing driving would go a long way to achiving this. Getting rid of curbside garbage pickup and recycling and instead making it neighbourhood based pickup so people have to carry their garbage and recycling to a pickup area..etc... In fact I think you can tell how successful a program could be by how negative your immediate reaction to it is.
posted by srboisvert at 6:50 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am so often an idiot, uncanny hengeman. :-)
posted by cider at 6:50 AM on December 17, 2010


Good Times

To be proudly displayed on your jean jacket until it gets replaced by an AC/DC full back panel.
posted by srboisvert at 6:54 AM on December 17, 2010


A dude and his wife have decided that the best way to inspire kids to get some exercise outdoors is to run daily marathons across the country.

and they get the kids to do this how?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:56 AM on December 17, 2010


Kids aren't obese because they aren't getting enough exercise. They're obese because their diet consists of extra-large servings of over-processed over-sweetened crap.
If this guy is successful in turning them on to running, he's just going to give them a bigger appetite.
posted by rocket88 at 7:20 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The *real* problem with these kids is that they won't GET OFF MY LAWN.
posted by edheil at 7:25 AM on December 17, 2010


...trying to get them to go play outside.

Get off my lawn, hosers!
posted by mmrtnt at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2010


Gaah!
posted by mmrtnt at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2010


rocket88: Kids aren't obese because they aren't getting enough exercise. They're obese because their diet consists of extra-large servings of over-processed over-sweetened crap.

I really don't know about that. When I was young, kids ate a lot of junk food and candy, too. But they were really active and few of them were fat. Easily accessible candy, cookies, soda, and fast food all predate the obesity epidemic by a generation or two. I think the lack of exercise is the determining factor - keeping kids inside due to the abduction panic, cutting recess and increasing the school day, and such correlate much better in time to the obesity epidemic.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2010


Running a marathon every day? Pffft. Call me when you're doing it with one leg.

(Sorry, no "running across Canada" post is complete without Terry Fox!)


Or Steve Fonyo, the one-legged guy that actually completed the run. Of course, we don't really like to talk about him much up here due to the legal problems.

On Aug.13, 2009, Fonyo, who was last known to have been working as a heavy-machinery mechanic, appeared in Surrey Provincial Court charged with one count of assault. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one day in jail. He was credited for 10 days already served. He was also subject to a one-year probation order. But just five days later, the 44-year-old was back in Surrey court, having breached his conditions. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 days in jail.

His membership in the Order of Canada was revoked in December 2009.[2][3]

posted by philip-random at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2010


Or Steve Fonyo, the one-legged guy that actually completed the run.

FROM THE LINK: The early part of his run was overshadowed by the memory of Fox and many Canadians criticized him...

Bloody hell.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:17 AM on December 17, 2010


Steve Fonyo is Canada's Raging Bull (Jake La Motta), no question. So where's our Martin Scorcese?
posted by philip-random at 9:27 AM on December 17, 2010


Fonyo's problems weren't legal, they were boozal.
posted by Trochanter at 10:11 AM on December 17, 2010


Drastic measurements are inevitable, I'm afraid.
posted by ODiV at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2010


sarastro: Since approximately 26% of Canadian children age 2-17 are now considered obese--

Actually, the link says that 26% of Canadian children are considered overweight or obese. Those are two different conditions: overweight indicates a body mass index between 25 and 30, obese indicates a body mass index greater than 30. (Body mass index is calculated solely on weight and height.)

According to Statistics Canada, 17% of Canadian children are overweight, and 9% are obese.
posted by russilwvong at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is easy to blame the helicopter parents but there are a few different causes, I would think the time crunch of two parents working -and working longer and more chaotic hours - and the absurdly high cost of children's organised sports (talk to a hockey mom) are two important factors off the top of my head.
posted by saucysault at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2010


the absurdly high cost of children's organised sports

This might seem a little tangential, but my first thought about this effort was 'this will do nothing for the obese kids... it'll just make the sporty kids laugh at them more'.

I divided my childhood between Canada and the UK, and I was really struck by how poor the Canadians were at integrating unathletic nerds like me into physical education. This was quite startling, because in every other respect, Canadian schools were vastly better than their British counterparts at the time.

Basically, the difference was this: sports education in Canada was about winning. Sports education in Britain was about playing. Even in the dirty eighties, British schools still retained a residual sense of 'play up and play the game', rewarding grit and determination over finesse and success, emphasising sportsmanship over skill.

Even to this day, when I talk about playing for fun, rather than to win, my British friends shake their heads in sadness for a fine old social value fallen onto hard times. My Canadian friends just look at me blankly. In the UK I played organized team sports as a kid. In Canada there was simply no point.
posted by Dreadnought at 12:17 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dreadnought made the point I came to make - 90% of kids aren't going to be in the top 10% of athletes, and at least in the US, I've noticed that the bottom 90 generally gets weeded out in high school, if not before. I think the introduction of non-competitive sports could really help this, and would have interested me as a kid. Something like hiking can be physically challenging but open to the vast majority of people. (Actually, a lot of typical summer camp activities are perfect for this, hours spent swimming or canoeing around a lake, beating your personal best in archery etc) The other factor is integration into everyday life - hiking is great but not so helpful if it's a 2x a year activity.

On closer inspection of their site, it seems like that's pretty close to their actual activities with the kids - taking them outside on discovery walks and such. Reading the title of this post, I thought they were going to try and get kids inspired simply by hearing how adults can run marathons, which doesn't seem so practical.
posted by fermezporte at 2:52 PM on December 17, 2010


[fixed the wording to the OPs intentions, carry on.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 AM on December 19, 2010


I agree that chubby, inactive kids are unlikely to be inspired by marathons -- a painful, boring form of exercise which seems to be appreciated by adults largely due to some kind of abstract achievement fixation and a "oh-god-I'm-in-so-much-pain-it's-starting-to-feel-good" reaction. As the Ur-chubby, inactive kid, I abhored running and abhored running long distance like some people abhor being fileted slowly with a spoon.

If you wanted to get me outside and active, the following were guaranteed to turn me off or make me feel inadequate such that I would not try:
- showing off sports heroes
- running with no game attached
- sports that required coordination and/skill to be enjoyed, like basketball

That said, I loved swimming and swam for 2+ hours a day in the summer (free pools! every city should have free pools -- save on health care later). I loved cycling and would go for 4 hour bike rides with my dad (views are better than running). Playground hockey at school was great, or three-pitch, or tetherball. Tobogganing was the greatest, skating was good.

All of these are first, and foremost, fun activities, not mainly about exercising but enjoying yourself.
posted by jb at 7:53 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nicky-nicky nine doors was also a lot of fun -- and for some reason I never seemed to mind running then.
posted by jb at 7:59 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a fat kid, there was nothing that would make me hold on to my NES and couch for dear life more than the words "marathon" or "running".
Hearing inspirational stories about someone else running? Probably ever a stronger effect.

The ultimate solution for physical activity, for us, was a large brick wall and a tennis ball.
posted by Theta States at 6:48 AM on December 21, 2010


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