By Janice Lingley
Eighteen Jóvenes Adelante (JA) students and others, via Amistad Canada, are participating in a Toronto virtual marathon. They will run, walk, or bike safely, on their own. What matters to JA students is that they are putting themselves forward, as well as for their own health, to give back by raising funds for other JA students who need extra financial support in difficult times.
Supporting them is Cathy Griffith Scharg, the second woman in Canada ever to run a marathon, circa 1971. In an open letter to JA students Scharg writes: “I too have run the Scotiabank Half Marathon in Toronto, and many other half marathons. At 70 years of age, I am still running about 30 kilometers a week with mostly younger runners now. Hopefully I will inspire you not only to run a successful upcoming race but also inspire you to do well in life… Even if you do not become a famous runner, your combined efforts in all of your pursuits will hopefully give you a fulfilled life.” Scharg started out as a middle-distance runner and competed at a national level in Canada, just under Olympic caliber at the time. She ran 400m, 800m, 1,500 meters, and the mile. For a brief while, she held the 1500 meters Canadian record. (That record has been shattered drastically.) Scharg, a pioneer among women Canadian athletes, looks back on the early 1970s, “There were no longer competitive distances for women, generally speaking, at that time. Running, on the whole, was not popular for the masses. The surge came in the ‘70s especially in the U.S. In the early ‘70s I was hearing about women running the marathon. That sparked my interest. I decided to train for it. Looking back I realize I knew very little about training for that particular event. There was no internet and there was very little written about the marathon in books available in Canada and probably anywhere! By the time I ran the race I had built up my distance to about 13 miles in training. I entered the race with 27 men … July 1, 1971 … in Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, Ontario.”
She placed fourteenth overall, running it in 3 hours, 45 minutes. Only around 39 other women in the world had run that distance at that time. “I did it for myself. I wanted to see what my limits were. I did not run for any glory because I really did not even know what I had achieved until years later.”
In encouraging JA students she says, “I hope you achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself whether it is in running or any of your future aspirations.”
Future aspirations are sentiments Jóvenes Adelante students live every day, hoping to achieve a new life for themselves and their families through higher education.