Local Leaders Promote Fitness, Achieve Foundation at Newstead 5K

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Hundreds of runners and walkers will crowd the streets of Newstead in South Orange this Saturday for the 12th Annual Newstead 5K which raises funds for the Achieve Foundation.

Among them will be local leaders Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and Sarah Lester, Director of the Maplewood Memorial Library.

Recently Lawson-Muhammad and Lester talked about why they run and why they support the Achieve Foundation:

Sarah Lester

Why Achieve:

I owe it to my children (three kids in three schools) and the SOMA community to do what I can to support a great school district. And in my role as Library Director, I see firsthand how important it is to enrich the education of all of our children. Every day after school, the Library fills with students who come  in to work on an assignment, log in to ST Math, find a book for a class, meet an Achieve tutor, or simply to hang out with friends.


Maplewood Memorial Library Director Sarah Lester crossing the finish line (white shirt) at the New York Marathon in 1996 when she was working at the New York Public Library.

Why I run:

I love the quiet and solitude of running. It is  one of the few times during the day that is completely my own. I sort through thoughts, come up with new ideas, and simply enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings. After an 18 year break, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon last fall and am looking forward to running the Big Sur Marathon (from Big Sur to Carmel, CA) in April 2015.

Lester also recommends “two great books on running” (both are available at the Maplewood Library):

  • What I Talk About When I talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall


Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad

Running is the physical embodiment of breaking through barriers. I really committed to running in 2003. My first goal was to run in 5k’s sponsored by my company. I quickly found that the 5k distance was in actuality a self-imposed barrier. I remember the first day I returned after a 3-mile run and said, “Wow, I could do more!” The next time I did. In 2006, I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) and was determined to run a marathon before 40. I came close, running my first marathon one month after turning 40 in 2009. Now at 45, I’ve turned into “slow poke Sally” — a name I fondly call myself. But I’m still running. No matter how slowly, I’m still running and distance isn’t a barrier for me anymore — I ran my last half marathon in the spring and have another scheduled in early 2015.

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education going the distance.

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education going the distance.

Achieve is the organizational embodiment of breaking through barriers. Helping students identify those self-imposed barriers along with those externally imposed faux barriers. Ensuring that students realize their full potential through hard work, dedication and robust encouragement and that our teachers have the resources and support they need to bring it all together. Public-private partnership in our schools is essential to us realizing our dreams for our children and our community. Achieve is here year after year, arm in arm with South Orange-Maplewood School District and for that I am truly thankful. Participating in the Achieve Newstead 5k is just one small way I can be a part of that.

For more information on the Newstead 5K and Achieve Foundation, visit here.

See Columbia High School track coach Lisa Morgan and CHS track star Olivia Baker (now at Stanford) talk about the Newstead 5K and Achieve here.


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