Treadmill marathons raise funds for charity

Lakewood High School coach Jeff Sowards stays focused on maintaining his pace during the ‘Marathon Powered by Sowards’ for the Seattle Children’s Hospital. - Kirk Boxleitner
Lakewood High School coach Jeff Sowards stays focused on maintaining his pace during the ‘Marathon Powered by Sowards’ for the Seattle Children’s Hospital.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

LAKEWOOD — Arlington and Lakewood high school teachers worked up a sweat to raise funds for some charitable causes.

At AHS, it was called the “Murrathon” in honor of coach Jon Murray, while at LHS, it was called the “Marathon Powered by Sowards,” in honor of coach Jeff Sowards, but in both cases, the two teachers ran the distance of a marathon on treadmills at their respective schools on the morning of June 3.

Although both Murray and Sowards are experienced runners, neither had ever gone as far as 26 miles in a single stretch — Murray had reached 22 miles previously, while Sowards had gotten as far as 20 miles — so they increased their regular regimen of running to make sure they could complete their goal.

Although Murray was joined by fellow AHS teachers Scott Moberly, Becca Harkavy, Sean Cunningham and Mike Liles on a second treadmill, Cunningham only ran half a marathon, while the other three teachers contributed one to three miles each. Murray completed his marathon in three hours and nine minutes, while Sowards, who had started slightly earlier, finished it in three hours and 29 minutes.

According to AHS ASB, Leadership and Link Crew Advisor Ben Ballew, Murray stopped only once to stretch his hamstrings, but then promptly resumed his pace.

“I paced myself at about eight minutes a mile,” said Sowards, who kept in contact with Murray via Skype during their run.

In both cases, their marathons were perfectly timed with their schools’ lunches.

“The entire school was in transition between classes and was able to watch [Murray’s] final steps,” Ballew said. “It was an epic climax. The sound was deafening, and it was probably the most united I have seen the school in my four years at AHS. It was absolutely incredible.”

While the students of LHS helped Sowards raise $1,500 for the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the students of AHS raised $4,000 for the Soles for Souls and Kids Kloset charities. Murray and fellow AHS science teacher Deanna Vaughan raised $1,500 prior to the Murrathon, which generated another $1,500 through the sales of Murrathon T-shirts, before the $1,000 in donations made on the day of the event.

“My colleagues covered all of my classes that morning for free, which is huge,” Sowards said. “We had great support from the ASB officers and other students. My extended family was there to give me support, which kept me going.”

Both teachers have already been asked if they plan on turning this joint treadmill marathon fundraiser into an annual event, and while they’re hesitant to set any plans in stone, they both expressed enthusiasm for the idea.

“That’s a definite possibility,” Murray said. “All our students, no matter their backgrounds, came together for a common cause. The energy leading into this event, and on the day of, are things that I will never forget.”

Murray and Sowards came up with the idea for this event during one of their runs together six weeks ago, and they praised not only their schools but their communities as a whole for taking their message of helping others to heart. The AHS ASB students designed a great deal of the ad campaign for the Murrathon and did research to select what they considered the most appropriate charities, while the LHS leadership class coordinated the details of the Marathon Powered by Sowards.

“I’d never done anything like this before, but I liked the idea of demonstrating our skills to inspire others to make a difference,” Sowards said.

“Coach Sowards and I wanted to show the kids that you can use your gifts to serve others,” Murray said. “Arlington is a very special community of loving and giving people, and that shows up in the attitudes of the kids and staff at Arlington High School.”


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