Running didn’t come into my life until I was an adult. I always wonder if things would’ve been different had I caught the running bug earlier. My fondest memories of running include me trying to escape dogs and the occasional juvenile delinquency. I did run while playing football and baseball, but that was not enjoyable. The quote “My sport is your sports punishment” comes to mind. In no way do I remember it being fun to run. Oh, how things have changed.
My curiosity about this is one of the reasons why I’m intrigued by running programs that target youth. When I see running clubs and organizations providing an avenue for youth, I like to know the story behind it. What prompted the start of program? How many kids are affected by it? What is the goal? All of these questions bounce around in my head.
In Arkansas, most races have an additional race for kids. To encourage younger runners, some will discount the registration fee. The Little Rock Marathon has a race that showcases our Little Rockers! Like other races, kids run his/her miles in advance and then the last mile is for the entire world to see. The hard work is done when no one sees them. Race day IS the celebration. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Clubs can help by providing scholarships like the Spa Pacers. They award the Buzz Wilson Scholarships to high school seniors that will attend college and that are involved in the sport of running or walking for fitness while exemplifying the principles of the Spa Pacer’s mission statement. Another Arkansas club that’s no stranger to youth programming are the Cabot Country Cruisers (CCC).
I had the pleasure of visiting them this year at one of their Summer Family Track Night events. You have to see these kids run for yourself. Unlike me as a kid, it’s not a chore or punishment to them. With club and family members lending support and cheers, they ran happily with smiles on their faces. The CCC doesn’t stop there with youth involvement. Proceeds from their annual Spring Fling 5k benefit Cabot Public Schools and the Inspiration Run makes for a great fun-filled, positive event for the community.
The Inspiration Run is a collaborative effort between the CCC and the school district. The club runs a total of 26.2 miles to 14 schools across town to promote getting kids active and to get out and exercise. A simple breakdown of the numbers is as follows: 26.2 miles, 14 schools, 1 purpose: to Inspire!
As you can see there are numerous ways to impact our young runners. The RRCA has a program called, Kids Run the Nation that was developed to address the concern for the health of children. You may have missed National Run@School Day on September 21, but don’t allow that to deter you.
One of the goals is to make running and being active a daily endeavor. Still thinking? Plan for next year. Get some volunteers in your club and make it happen. Big programs and initiatives started out as small ideas in someone’s head.
Maximize your resources. I encourage you to apply for a grant from the RRCA. They are currently accepting applications for grants to help implement youth running programs. The deadline to apply is October 31. You have time!
Reach out to the youth in your community. They will be the ones literally running your running clubs one day unless you plan to stay around forever. If you do, please share the immortality secret. I know someone that could use it.
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