Nova Scotia

How a remote one-room Cape Breton school keeps fit all winter long in a tiny basement

The students at a tiny, remote school in northern Cape Breton are going to be participating in the province's premier long-distance race next month, but they won't actually be in Halifax for the Blue Nose Marathon.

Pleasant Bay School in Cape Breton has 8 students, 1 teacher and a tiny gym

More than half of the students at Pleasant Bay School are shown in this photo. (Holly Connors/CBC)

The students at a tiny, remote school in northern Cape Breton are going to be participating in the province's premier long-distance race next month, but they won't actually be in Halifax for the Blue Nose Marathon.

Instead, the students will be in their home community of Pleasant Bay on Friday, June 7, and will host a remote event where students either run distances of 4.2 kilometres or 2.1 kilometres.

To train for the race, they've been running a very short distance, many, many times.

"What we do is we run back and forth in our basement 111 times," said 11-year-old student Aaron Fraser. "Sometimes we do two kilometres instead, which is 222 times."

Pleasant Bay School has eight students and one teacher, Ashley Crowley.

Pleasant Bay School is home to eight students and one teacher. (Holly Connors/CBC)

She called the building a one-room schoolhouse and said the gym is housed in the basement.

"The basement is really the only place we can run in the winter," said Crowley.

To convert the basement into a running facility, Crowley placed tape on the cement floor to turn the space into four running lanes. The younger and older kids take turns training.

With so few students at the school, Crowley said it wasn't easy figuring out what they could all do for gym class.

'Running is something we can all do'

"It's not like we can go outside and play soccer," she said. "And then I also have little ones and big ones. And running is something that we can all do."

Crowley got the school involved in the Kids Run Club, a free, school-based running program created by Doctors Nova Scotia.

As the weather has warmed up, Pleasant Bay School students have moved their runs from inside to outdoors. (Holly Connors/CBC)

Student Danielle MacKinnon, 10, said the basement poses some training challenges.

"It doesn't seem like much ... But when you run back and forth in a basement that's not that long, it feels really hard and long to do," she said.

Pleasant Bay School has only one teacher, Ashley Crowley, who is shown with student Lydia Fraser. (Holly Connors/CBC)

For the Blue Nose, the students will be running outdoors and hosting two other schools. A total of 110 students are expected to take part.

As the weather has warmed up, students at Pleasant Bay School have moved their training outdoors.

"It felt so much better to be just running in a straight line than going back and forth, back and forth," said nine-year-old student Lydia Fraser.

About the Author

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at holly.conners@cbc.ca.

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