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Massapequa Offers ‘Virtual Marathon’ Activity

Members of the Adaptive Physical Education (APES) class at Alfred G. Berner Middle School just reached a milestone. They completed 13.1 or half of a 26.2 mile marathon without leaving the walls of the school gym. The 10 member class, comprised of students with either physical or cognitive challenges, have been participating since September in a virtual marathon offered through Achilles International, a non-profit organization devoted to enabling people with disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics in order to instill personal achievement.

Achilles International plotted a route for the 26.2 mile marathon on a map of Massapequa. After stretching, physical education teachers Tom Fiorentine and Kerry Regan turn some music on and lead the students — with the assistance of aides — in running or walking laps around the gym for 10 minutes. The number of laps is recorded in each student’s folder and then converted to miles. Every week students can view the map and see how far they have gone through the route as it winds through familiar landmarks in their community.  For every five miles that are logged, Achilles International awards the students with a certificate of achievement. When the students complete the marathon at the end of the school year, the organization awards them a medal, a T-shirt and a new pair of sneakers, reinforcing the goal achieved and a sense of accomplishment in the students. Fifteen other students are currently participating in the marathon in Brigit Canle’s class at Massapequa High School and three more in Brian Rath’s class at Fairfield Elementary School.

“The beauty of this program is that it can be easily adapted to the needs and abilities of the class,” Fiorentine said.

“We hope this program instills a passion for fitness and for being healthy and active,” Regan added.  “Massapequa is the only school on Long Island that participates in the virtual marathon. This was a pilot program for us this year, but based on its success, we hope to bring it to all the schools next year and spread the word to other school districts.”