Goal setting and challenges are found throughout school campuses everywhere. Teachers and staff can be heard cheering on students as they accomplish tasks or celebrate special milestones. So it struck me one day as I ran into the reverse at Eden Park Elementary School (EPE)—posters of encouragement taped to the principal’s office door by students!
EPE Principal Mark Frehe became interested in running when the health pandemic began, even participating in a virtual ultramarathon of 100 miles over 10 days. “I am always looking for interesting challenges to keep pushing myself physically,” he shared. So when a friend approached him about running the Forgotten Florida Ultramarathon, he was interested. The challenge, 45 miles in a single day—19 miles farther than he had ever run before!
“It definitely seemed like a stretch goal and would require me to push myself physically and mentally as never before,” added Frehe.
As Frehe’s students began hearing about his new goal, they took it upon themselves to offer words of support, much like he has done for them over the years. And the days before the big race, they taped posters of encouragement to his door. “It gave him a happy spirit,” exclaimed student Diana Pedro proudly. “Our support encouraged him to keep going,” adds Ingrid Santis, a fourth grader at the school. “We wanted him to feel like we were by his side.”
“There were a number of times during the race that it got very difficult physically; however, the mental aspect of the race is probably tougher than the physical aspect,” said Frehe. “Your mind starts playing tricks on you, and you question why you would ever want to do this.”
While it would have been much easier to quit, Frehe thought of his family at the finish line and his students who were cheering from afar. “I thought a lot about my family and I also thought a lot about how proud the students at Eden Park would be since they had been asking me so many questions about the race. I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly tell them to explain why I didn’t finish.”
Those thoughts motivated Frehe to complete his challenge. “He did it for us and never gave up!” exclaimed student Marquez Galindo. “I felt really proud for him,” stated fourth grader Antonio Navarrete. Santis added excitedly, “He is the best principal! He accomplished his goals, and it makes me feel like I can accomplish mine.”
“I love the positive impact my (crazy) goals can have on others,” reflected Frehe happily.