On Saturday, October 31, the Success Academy marathon team celebrated 10 years of running and fundraising on behalf of our schools and scholars! Even though the TCS New York City Marathon was canceled this year due to the pandemic, Team Success remained undaunted, running toward their goal of raising $1 million over ten years in support of SA. Staff, supporters, and friends of SA participated in an SA-hosted half-marathon and full-marathon event (both virtually and in person!), upholding this special tradition and showing everyone exactly how far a try-and-try attitude can take you. Thank you to all SA runners!
None of this would have been possible without the continued support of our Team Success coaches, who volunteer their time and talents to this incredible program: Stirling Levy and Dio Cabreira da Silva. We were thrilled to hear directly from Coach Stirling Levy about his motivation and commitment to running, coaching — and to Success Academy!
How did you become involved with Success Academy?
I am grateful that in 2008, my close friend David Greenspan — who was a Success board member — invited me to attend the Success lottery and tour a school. I was deeply impressed with and inspired by the scholars’ energy, the teachers’ determination, the program’s vision and Eva Moskowitz’s leadership. As a New Yorker — born and raised — I was always aware of the critical need for better schools in NYC. It was clear that NYC students deserved more Success Academies! In January 2009, I joined the Board of Harlem Success Academy 4, the fourth school in the Success network, and in 2011, we started Team Success. I am grateful to my close friends David Greenspan and Jonathan Auerbach who have generously underwritten with me the fees each year such that 100% of the money raised by our runners goes to Success Academy. They have been extremely supportive and enthusiastic partners in Team Success.
What is it about running that you find fulfilling — in particular, what is it about running a marathon that drives you to train and complete such a challenge?
It may sound funny, but I believe running makes me a better person. I almost always feel better after a run than before. It is meditative, it makes me feel connected to nature, it gives me positive endorphins. But I also like to get uncomfortable; pushing to the edge enables me to learn about myself.
From the very first marathon (which took place in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 — great story!) the marathon has brought out the best in runners. For me, as for most marathoners, the competition is against oneself. Can you complete the marathon? Can you break 4 hours? Can you notch a PR (Personal Record)? Can you BQ (qualify for the Boston Marathon)? Can you run the World Majors? I am working on it!
You’ve been coaching the SA marathon team for 10 years! What’s been the most rewarding part of taking on this role?
I am grateful that Success Academy has enabled me to contribute in this way. Coaching Team Success is a treat for me. It allows me to combine two things I am passionate about — Success Academy and running — and to spend time with my good friend and Co-Coach, Dio Cabreira da Silva. Over the years, we have helped about 325 runners run a marathon, the large majority of whom were first timers. Some of our first timers have gone on to run multiple marathons and even ultra-marathons! One ran a sub-three hour marathon! Another cool thing is thinking about the ripple effect. Our runners likely inspire others, knowingly or not; in a small way they’re helping the world become a better place. Many of our runners are Success teachers and get to use to the marathon as a teachable moment for their scholars.
What lessons do you think our scholars can learn from the marathon? What has the marathon taught you personally?
There’s a good quote by the football coach, Paul Bryant: “It’s not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” That’s one of the things training for a marathon can help people learn, the importance of preparation, putting in the hard work, following a plan. With hard work comes measurable progress. Anything is achievable with a thoughtful plan, hard work and perseverance.