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I also don't like the idea of sending them into a marathon. Anyone can run a marathon but some shouldn't.
That said, the idea of using running as a positive influence for these kids is great. There should be more programs of this type around, I just think they should be focusing on the half marathon or 10K or some cross-country running instead of the marathon. Of course, the flip side of that argument is the “mystique” of the marathon. Would the kids be as likely to participate in a program that is targeted toward a 10K? It's hard to say but the argument doesn't seem totally off base.