About 20 young women who have come to Toronto from around the world are going to try something new on Sunday that they've spent three months preparing for — the 5K run at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
It's all part of a program run by the West Neighbourhood House, a non-profit based in Parkdale that helps newcomers settle in Toronto, with the help of some trainers from the Parkdale Road Runners track club .
Trainer Anya Taraboulsy says the program "helps them push their limits [and] overcome their fears," and it makes them feel more at home.
"Some of these girls are ... brand new to Toronto. It helps them get to know their city, get to know each other and get to know the community," Taraboulsy told CBC Toronto.
The goal is also to help the young women, ranging in age from 14 to 18, build their leadership skills and foster a sense of community.
The group has been meeting every Wednesday evening since July to prepare for the race. They run around High Park and work on a different element every session. The runners work toward building stamina, controlling their speed and building their momentum, all of which will help them successfully complete the five kilometres.
Abby Grace and Bernadeth Bangod moved to Canada from the Philippines with their family two years ago. Abby Grace, 19, is in her first year of university and Bernadeth, 16, is in Grade 12. They say their parents moved here to create better living conditions for the family and for their girls to have access to higher education.
"I'm proud to be in this program," Bernadeth said, 'because I get to enjoy running with other people, especially with trainers who, you know, are pushing us so hard.
'Kids my age are focused on technology too much.' - Bernadeth Bangod
Both of the Bangod sisters say they have a lot of school work to do, but they manage their time in order to train for the marathon.
"It was sort of a challenge for me at first," Abby Grace said. "I've never run the 5K before and I thought to myself this is a great opportunity for me to, like, try something new and meet other people as well."
For her part, Bernadeth enjoys the training and prefers running as an after-school activity to staring at a screen.
"Kids my age are focused on technology too much," she said.
Yasmin Soomar, a representative from West Neighbourhood House, believes "there's no better way [than running together] to make good friends."
She and the other trainers say they have seen a significant increase in the newcomers' confidence and passion.
"They all have different goals but crossing that finish line is the main goal," she said.