Seekonk Native Marta McAlister prepares for her first Boston Marathon
Marta McAlister, 29, is running around the world to prepare for her first Boston Marathon. As a Program Manager for Google for Education and for pleasure, she travels internationally on a weekly basis. Despite long hours on planes and changing time zones, McAlister uses her training runs as an opportunity to explore cities, like London, Amsterdam, and Lisbon. Her inspiration: Playworks New England, a regional branch of a national nonprofit working to bring play and physical activity into elementary schools as a means to improve the health and well-being of children and to enhance learning.
McAlister is one of six members of Team Playworks New England who will run the Boston Marathon.. As a former public school teacher, the Somerville resident and Seekonk native knows the value of organized play during the school day as she saw first-hand the impact recess had on her students’ success in the classroom. Her company recently surveyed select employers to determine what skills employers’ are looking for in the job market today. Interpersonal, social and team building topped the list – all skills learned on the playground. McAlister put the survey results into practice. As a volunteer Playworks Corporate Coach, she invited elementary school students to her office to explore how their activities during recess translate to math and lessons applied in the corporate world.
Through a combination of onsite direct-service coaching and training school faculty and staff, Playworks New England integrates physical activity and social and emotional learning into organized activities during recess. The goal is to create a space where students feel included, are active, and build valuable social and emotional skills needed to thrive in the classroom and beyond. Entering its 11th year, the organization serves 50,000 students in more than 100 elementary schools across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. To date, the nonprofit has served 160,000 youth.
“A lot of public schools are facing budget cuts and more often than not the creative and athletic outlets are the first to go,” says McAlister. “But, what educators and the public need to understand is that playing with other kids in an organized environment helps to build life-long skills and confidence to be applied in the classroom and beyond. Therefore, it is so important to support organizations, such as Playworks New England, to help fill the gaps.”
Growing up, McAlister was always active. She played soccer and swam and was very involved with local musical and theater productions. It wasn’t until college that she turned to running as a form of catharis, a therapeutic way to deal with stress. Now, she runs on a daily basis because of her love for the sport. This will be McAlister’s third marathon. She previously ran in New York City in 2010 and Providence in 2012.
“MESH, which stands for mindsets, essential skills, and habits, can all be developed on the playground,” says McAlister. “Personally, I have learned so much about myself and gained mental clarity from running and sports. Kids need the opportunity to discover themselves and their place amongst their peers.”
In the weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon, McAlister, alongside the rest of the Playworks New England team, will participate in a number of fundraising initiatives, including selling Playworks t-shirts, hosting raffles at grocery stores, and hosting events. On Friday, March 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the team will host a fundraiser at Harpoon Brewery. The event is open to the public. Admission is $30 and includes unlimited pizza and beer samples. Through her run, McAlister hopes to raise $10,000 to support Playworks New England.
“The night of the Boston Marathon, I have to jump on a plane to Ireland – not for work this time, but for a family wedding,” says McAlister. “But, with proper nutrition and sleep in addition to my weekly training runs, I hope to be in good shape to finish the Marathon. Running for Playworks has been a great experience.”
For more information about Playworks New England or to donate to McAlister’s run, visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/PlayworksBoston2017/fundraiser/martamcalister.