by Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Editor
photo by Mia D’Souza, photo illustration by Emily Cheng
Entering room 6212 for a Thursday afternoon WIN Block means entering a community; a wave of people greet each other and share laughs as excitement fills up the room. From freshmen to seniors, Dreamfar offers students a place to foster friendships and connect with new people, all while maintaining a stress-free athletic environment that pushes students to reach their full potential.
Dreamfar High School Marathon (DHSM), a non-profit organization that started at South in 2008, was New England’s first high school marathon training program. Dreamfar athletes train four times a week for the Providence Marathon, which will be held on May 1, 2022.
Kerri Bisaga, special education and English teacher and one of the Dreamfar coaches, said that the program was originally established to give students an opportunity to exercise without the stress of competitions.
“Dreamfar started off as just a teacher here at South who liked running marathons themself and noticed a couple of kids that wanted to get into some kind of physical activity but didn’t want to be out there competing. So she just dreamed up this program,” Bisaga said. “The first year, it was just five kids and one teacher from South running the Providence Marathon and training for it, and then it grew.”
The organization has spread to 10 different Massachusetts schools, including Brookline High, Boston’s Community Academy of Science and Health Charter School, Needham High and Malden High.
On Saturday mornings, South members run with students from other schools at the Brookline Teen Center, Bisaga said.
Sean Bryden, senior and a leader for South’s Dreamfar chapter, said that the Saturday runs are one of his favorite parts of training.
“I’ve met a lot of new people from other schools on the weekend runs, but also it’s just the accomplishment of running longer and longer distances every week, which is cool,” he said.
Dreamfar coach and special education teacher Holly Kee said that the coaches believe in engaging with students every step of the way.
“A lot of sports coaches tell kids to go and do something and then come back. In this particular training, we get to be with them and we get to run with them,” Kee said. “There is never a time where I’m telling a kid to go do something if I’m not doing it with them.”
Senior and co-leader of South’s chapter Abby Zheng said that everyone trains with a buddy, which contributes to a strong community.
“Our phrase is ‘26.2 together,’ and the emphasis is on the ‘together’ part. Every mile, every practice, you’re running with someone,” Zheng said. “You are never alone in the process.”
Typically, to run the full Providence Marathon, runners have to be 18 years old. However, Dreamfar has an agreement with the marathon that gives an exception to high schoolers taking part in the program, Kee said.
Freshman Josh Kahn said that despite the challenging nature of the program, he enjoys the welcoming and open community.
“It’s more grouped up than track or cross country,” he said. “At track, everyone is really fast, but Dreamfar has a nice range of different speeds.”
Zheng said that prior to joining Dreamfar, she was not an avid runner; however, the club has provided her with the uplifting environment she needed to get into the sport. While the goal is to cross the finish line in May, she said that the club values more than just completing 26.2 miles.
“The biggest part about Dreamfar isn’t just when you cross the finish line, but it’s also when all the months’ work is added together,” Zheng said. “You’re not really there just to run the marathon, you’re also there to form these friendships and relationships with the people around you.”
Bisaga said that Dreamfar is not only made up of people with different running capabilities, but also a diverse range of people.
“There is no such thing as a typical Dreamfar athlete. We have students coming from every sort of academic track, every different program and every different place. We have English-language learning students, we have freshmen, we have seniors, we have a huge variety, and we welcome them all,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if you can run a super fast mile or if you’re run-walking the whole marathon. We have had students run-walk the entire marathon, and they just Bluetooth speaker music out and party it out the whole time. 26.2 miles just raging.”