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Miami Lakes teacher bikes across Florida to fight obesity

A first grade teacher at Miami Lakes K-8 Center will begin a 590-mile ride from Georgia to Florida to promote exercise for kids.

By Rodolfo Roman

Special to The Miami Herald

Miami Lakes teacher Marlene Garcia has competed in marathons, but she has never attempted to push herself like she will on this endeavor.

On Thursday, Garcia will begin a 590-mile, Georgia to Florida bike ride in an effort to raise awareness about childhood obesity.

“The point here is to keep moving,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s biking or running. Exercising could be done as a family.”

Garcia, who is a first grade teacher at Miami Lakes K-8 Center, has competed in several running events, like the Disney, ING Miami, Chicago and Paris marathons.

In January, Garcia served as support crew for her husband Alexis, an ultra runner, for a 191-mile run from Key Biscayne to Key West in support of the same cause.

He is returning the favor, serving as her coach in the trek from Fort Clinch, Georgia to the southernmost point in Key West.

“This is amazing,” Alexis Garcia said. “I am helping her accomplish a dream just like she helped me accomplish mine. She was my coach, motivator and my everything.”

The expedition begins June 11 and will last about 10 days, depending on the weather. Marlene Garcia said she aims to ride at least 60 miles a day. She is hopeful her venture will open parents’ eyes to the need for children to exercise.

“In life, you need balance, and as parents you need to find something for them they like to keep them active,” Garcia said. “Technology is great, but it is affecting the youth.”

In September, the Garcias founded a local chapter of the nonprofit organization Just Run. More than 100 local youth, ages 5 to 15 years old, have already enrolled in the Miami Lakes program.

Just Run introduces educational methods to help children practice a healthier way of life through nutrition and proper exercise.

“Statistics show that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years,” Garcia said. “It’s scary.”

Since the Garcias won’t have a support crew on their ride, they’ll be carrying a tent and other necessary equipment.

Garcia will be making the trip on a Trek Lexa, the same bike she’s using to train six days a week, taking practice runs Saturday and Sunday.

She said the hard work is worth the sacrifice for a future healthy generation.

“If you need motivation, your child could be the best motivator,” she said.

Children and parents will be waiting for the couple at the finish line.

For more information about Just Run Miami Lakes, call Jessica Fernandez or Katia Lysak at 305-364-6100 or visit /www.justrun.org/JUST_RUN_Satellites/MiamiLakesFL.htm.

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