There was a bond between Kurt Schmidt and his 10-year-old son, Maarten, while they circled the running track at Cross Middle School last Saturday.
That physical link was a soft black string, a few feet long, tied from Kurt's wrist to Maarten's wrist. Maarten's white cane sat on a bench while they ran laps. Kurt told his son where the turns were, and how many laps they had done.
"We are coming up on the curve," Kurt said to his son. "That is three laps, that is three quarters of a mile."
Maarten, who was born blind, will run alongside his dad in the Marana Can Do 5K race while wife and mother Elsa and 12-year-old son and brother Christian cheer them on. The Can Do 5K, this Saturday at 9 a.m. starting at Ora Mae Harn Park, marks the second race for Kurt and Maarten, who have found strength and focus through running.
About 18 months ago, Kurt and his wife Elsa recognized Maarten wasn't getting enough exercise.
"Frankly, it kind of kept him from sleeping as he should," Kurt said. "We felt there needed to be something in his life where he was doing more than what he was doing, with his typical routine of going to school and hanging out."
They bought him a membership at the Northwest YMCA and trained him on an elliptical machine, where he could safely and independently burn off his energy. Soon, with the help of a trainer, Maarten took to walking on a treadmill, then running on it.
Maarten doesn't just like to run. He likes to sing karaoke, and in his church choir. He enjoys swings and just being involved with what everyone else is doing. He rides a scooter around their yard, and recently got a BB gun as a gift.
Kurt said the name of the race — Can Do — fits his son.
"Can-do is very much Maarten. He is a can-do kid. He has a lot of spunk, he is a very joyful and a happy kid that wants to participate in life."
Listening to an eclectic playlist, the Donaldson Elementary School fourth-grader runs at home while in synch with specifically timed playlists consisting of artists like The Monkees, Brandi Carlile and songs from the movie "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou."
From running on a treadmill, the natural progression was to take Maarten outside and around a track, where Kurt could bring his experience as a high school cross-country and track runner. Through his history and tips from a family relative who is a running coach, the duo set out to run and train for a race.
That race was the Egg Nog Jog in Marana on New Year's Day. It went well. With one race under his belt, Maarten hopes to complete his second 5K race. He won't be slowing down any time soon.
"I get to run, I get to be with my dad," Maarten said. And, by participating in the Marana Can Do race, he is glad to help the Marana Food Bank.
The family has kept a spreadsheet of Maarten's achievements. Since July, the 10-year-old has run 480 miles around the track and on his treadmill.
"Sometimes it is just long, slow distance, and he will run on the treadmill for 90 minutes," Kurt said. "Other times there will be some interval-type training, hill training, speed workouts and that kind of thing."
Kurt said the running and exercise has been a good thing for his son's mental abilities and brainpower.
"We are wanting him to stick with that physical activity in part because we think it is so healthy for him in other ways," Kurt said.
Training for the race has also been a healthy challenge for Kurt. When Maarten was showing an interest in running, Kurt was dealing with life's stresses, and found himself physically drained and not as able as he thought he should be.
"I saw [running] as an opportunity for me to actually participate with Maarten, too," Kurt said.
Maarten has expressed an interest in possibly running a 26-mile marathon some day.
"I'm not sure dad can do one," Kurt said.
Marana Can Do 5K run, walk Feb. 6
Participants in a 5-kilometer running and walking event and a 1-mile stroll hit the streets of Marana on Saturday, Feb. 6.
The Marana Can Do 5K begins at 9 a.m. at Ora Mae Harn Park. Cost of entry is a bag of non-perishable food for the Marana Community Food Bank. Entrants can pay $10 for pre-bagged food at Sunflower Farmers Market.
The Marana Can Do 5K is sponsored by Marana Parks and Recreation, the Marana Chamber of Commerce and Northwest Medical Center, aiming "to promote community health as well as bring neighbors together to supply local families with the food they desperately need," a release said.
In addition to the race, there are raffle prizes, a farmers market, a craft corner, and the SHINE Health Bus.
Pets are welcome, if they're leashed, friendly and well-behaved.
To sign up, go to maranachamber.com/registrationmaranacando.html. The event's first 250 entrants get a free T-shirt.
For more information, call Jolene at 235-7247.