RUNNING SHORTS highlight a wide range of subjects related to youth and running. Some postings apply to young children, those still in elementary school, others to middle school and high school aged youth. To keep this dialogue going, we encourage our readers to tell us what they are doing to help youth get fit; to have goals; to discover running does not stop just because the school year ends. You can email us using the link on the ABOUT US page.
I WAS THERE FROM THE START - ISSUE #1
I have been around running my entire life. Well almost. It began in 1960, my sophomore year in high school. I guess I was a good runner but not even close to being great. What I was great at was absorbing the lessons learned on the trails and track. I draw from them still today.
In 1966, I subscribed to a new magazine. So new that I received the first issue. DISTANCE RUNNING NEWS. Bob Anderson was the publisher. He was even younger than I was, just 17, a high school senior.
Anderson started DISTANCE RUNNING NEWS as a black and white magazine and began advertising in Track and Field News. At first it came out twice a year and by its second year had 850 subscribers. I read each copy again and again.
In 1970, Anderson moved from his home in Kansas to Mountain View, California, and the name of the magazine changed to RUNNER’S WORLD. I had the first issue, and the second, and hundreds after that. I sold issue No. 1 (for a handsome price) in 2018 with the pledge that it would be placed in a public library collection in Oregon.
Douglas Finley, Editor, Journal of Youth Running
COACHES: THIS IS A MUST READ!
SETTING PRs IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICH., AGAIN
In 2021 we reported on a distance-only track meet hosted by Grand Rapids (Mich.) Ottawa Hills High School. 800, 1600, 3200, both boys and girls. No hurdles, no jumps, no starting blocks. At the end of the season. The week before the state finals.
Dan Ebright, veteran Track and Field coach at Ottawa Hills, understood that after spring break, teams are typically focusing on the conference, regional and state meets.
The runners are in their best shape of the season, but for some, those who will not make it to the starting line in the big meets, the season is over. The chance to set a PR is gone. For others, those running in both individual and relay races in the big meets, PRs may be sacrificed for points.
Ebright and his staff of volunteers had an idea. One that would give runners from schools across the state one more shot at setting a PR. And running under the lights with a huge crowd to cheer them on.
Seventeen schools showed up. 150 runners -- 111 setting PRs. Seventy-four percent! A great start, but it was only the beginning.
Jump forward two years, to May 27, 2023. Distance Night Under the Lights. Hosted at historic Houseman Field, home of track and field in Grand Rapids for more than 100 years. But never before has anyone seen a track meet with 19 heats of the 1600, 19 heats of the 800, and nine heats of the 3200. 83 schools! 642 runners! 853 counting runners doubling up!
When the lights were turned off, 63 percent of the runners in the 1600 had a new PR. In the 800, there were 69.90% PRs and in the 3200m there were 71.98% PRs.
Again, congratulations to Dan Ebright and his team of volunteers at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills for what they do, and for sharing it with us.
LONG AND EASY, SHORT AND FAST
News of children five and six years old entering road races and age-group track meets gives fuel to the ongoing debate of what is too much, too soon and the likelihood that children who are competing and running long distances may not continue running.
One expert’s opinion on the topic of what is too much, too soon for children, comes from Eric Heinz, High-Performance Director for the Atlanta Track Club. His track and cross country teams at the Marist School in Atlanta won 24 Georgia state championships.
Heinz suggests that runs built on short-and-fast and long-and-easy will keep kids excited about running. He favors kids running fast in games or in short relays , and slow on longer runs where being with friends makes the time go faster and the distance seem shorter.
The legendary Arthur Lydiard, famed New Zealand track coach, would have agreed. In a conversation I had with Lydiard many years ago (he passed away in 2004), he expressed concern on what he called the “between” distances – between short and fast and long and easy. He explained that runs requiring both speed and endurance are not what kids want or need. He also believed running against the clock, and especially at a longer distance, can be too physically demanding for children and risks driving them away from the sport.
COACHING CROSS COUNTRY SUCCESSFULLY by Joe Newton
Joe Newton coached the York High School (Elmhurst, Illinois) boys’ Cross Country teams for an astounding 60 years. But his record as coach is even more astounding. York was on the Illinois State Cross Country Championship podium 44 times with Newton as coach. Twenty-eight were as Illinois State Cross Country Champions. Eleven were second place finishes.
It was Coach Newton’s boys doing the running. It was Newton teaching them how to run. His book “Coaching Cross Country Successfully” is a must-read for coaches of young runners, those from middle school up.
It is not a book with suggested workouts and distances and splits. These are not important. For Newton, what is important is motivating young runners; building a sense of team, of belonging; and a history built on tradition. These were the foundations of Newton’s success and those of his runners.
Joe Newton passed away in 2017, at the age of 88. He is missed. His book, "Coaching Cross Country Successfully", is timeless. It can be found on the Web.
MORE RECOMMENDED READING!
RUNNING TO THE EDGE by Matthew Futterman.
Bob Larsen. From a bunch of misfits to a national cross-country title. A journey from high school coaching to Head Coach at UCLA. To Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor. To Boston, New York and the Olympic marathon.
TIPS FROM SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN THERE
Golden Harper began running when he was very young. It was a family value. And not just running but running fast. As a 12-year-old, he posted a 2:45 marathon -- a time recognized as the National Best-Ever for his age.
In high school Harper won two Utah cross country state titles and was a top finisher at the Foot Locker Nationals. Then running for Brigham Young University, he was shoulder to shoulder with the country’s best.
Today, Harper, aside from his running, is the owner of P.R. Gear, and co-founder of Altra Running, an emerging power in the design, development, marketing, and sales of innovative athletic shoes.
In an article authored by Lisa Selin Davis (published by Runner’s World titled Should Children Run Long), Ms. Davis wrote “In Harper’s family, there was a focus on ‘running like a Kenyan.’ That involves starting out slowly, changing your runs every day, running with a group when you can, and perhaps most importantly, treading softly [turf versus asphalt] to protect and strengthen the foot muscles.”
The article also quoted Harper as saying, “… if young runners do nothing but sit down except when running, they’re likely to get injured and not develop their full potential as runners. Kids, like their adult counterparts, can perform drills and strengthening exercises to counteract this. Too much of this [however] takes running away from the play it should be. Most argue that it’s even better to have them active in a variety of physically demanding sports -- soccer, basketball, lacrosse -- from ages 6-12.”
This is all good advice.
HOW TO TEACH KIDS…
Although published by Runner's World more than a decade ago, How to Teach Kids to Love Running is relevant still today. You may recognize the core concepts and the author.
BLACK GIRLS ON THE STARTING LINE
Aliphine Tuliamuk, 2020 USA Olympic marathoner, talked on the POPSUGAR Fitness website about being a Black woman and representing the United States in the Olympic Marathon, an honor she earned as winner of the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta in February 2020. Aliphine, born in Kenya, one of 32 siblings (not a typo), is a graduate of Wichita State University, a nine-time NCAA All-American, and a proud mother.
She is quoted as saying she hoped to be a positive role model for young Black girls. "You cannot aspire to something that you can't see. There is a lot of Black girls that probably watch the Olympics, but they watch the 100 meters and the field events, because that is where they see Black athletes.”
She points out that until now there has not been a Black American female on the starting line of the Olympic Marathon. She is hopeful that she will cause Black girls to "start dreaming", to discover running is more than just the sprints. Joining her on the starting line representing the USA would be Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego. Sally also was born in Kenya.
Aliphine’s story reminds us of a Flint Northern HS team, made up of seven Black girls, who won the Michigan State Class A (the big schools) Cross Country title more than 40 years ago. Coach Norb Badar said later that he spent time helping the girls visualize themselves being on the starting line in the state meet. He expected that runners and spectators might stare, maybe even whisper to each other about a team of all Black girls – a first time ever. But most importantly, that once the gun was fired, it would be time to fly, just like any other meet.
In Sapporo, Aliphine ran with the race leaders in the early miles, but a hip injury prevented her from completing the distance. Those who follow her performances know she will be back. But she filled her objective, showing young Black girls they belong on the starting line, whatever the distance.
To learn more about Aliphine, check out https://www.nyrr.org/media-center/athletes/aliphine-tuliamuk
GRANT FISHER - PICKING THE RIGHT SPORT
Grant Fisher finished fifth in the 2020 Olympic 10,000 meters. By any standard, Grant is a relative novice against an elite field such as he faced in Tokyo. His performance was a highlight of the track competition, especially considering just a few short years ago running was Grant’s second sport. Soccer was king.
Grant started playing soccer at age 4. By middle school, he was playing soccer year-round. During the high school season, it was for his Grand Blanc MI high-school team and for a championship club team during the off season. He was good, really good. Offers of college scholarships to play soccer arrived in the mail every week.
But so did offers to run track. Even though Grant did not consider track his first sport (opting to play soccer over running when a conflict occurred), he won the first of two Footlocker Cross Country National titles in his junior year.
It was in November of his senior year when Grant made his choice. It would be track and field and he would attend Stanford University. That spring, Grant won state titles in the 1600 and 3200 distances, and he became the seventh high school athlete to break four minutes in the mile.
This post is not about his running, or even soccer, but that his parents gave Grant the room to make the decision, and coaches allowed Grant to pursue both sports rather than force a decision of one over the other. Running was before school and soccer after. On game nights, it was miles run under the lights. Soccer provided the speed work.
Too often, kids are pressured to pick one sport over another. Often by parents. Other times, by coaches. Being with friends is a factor. So are parents transporting kids to practice and juggling family commitments. Having a two-sport athlete in the same season can be difficult for the family.
If, however, the goal is to have youth enjoy their sports, be it one or two; in-season and out of season, we, the adults, must allow youth to explore, to discover, to play or not to play, to make their own choice in their own time. And, just maybe, playing more than one sport will make them a better athlete.
A LETTER TO HIS YOUNGER SELF
Nick Willis, on January 19, broke the 4-minute mile for a record 19th straight year. Nick, representing his native New Zealand, is a two-time Olympic medalist in the 1,500m (2nd in 2008 and 3rd in 2016). In Tokyo this month, he will compete in his fifth Olympic games. Nick trains in Ann Arbor, Michigan under coach Ron Warhurst.
Willis was invited to author a letter to his younger self. His letter appeared recently on the Canadian Runner website, reported by Madeleine Kelly.
Willis wrote, “I can see, Nick, that you are not always 100 percent focused on running. You skip the odd training session, preferring to hang out with your mates playing basketball, touch rugby and cricket. You do feel guilt when not training but listen very carefully to what I am about to say: please do not feel so guilty.
“In the bigger picture, the fact that you’re not always fully focused on athletics at your age is irrelevant. You are a late developer and will experience a big growth spurt at the age of 16 and 17, so training hard in your younger years–when the body is most prone to injury–would have potentially damaging consequences.”
Good advice. Thanks Nick and thanks Madeleine Kelly.
CHALLENGE RUNS MEET BACKYARD ULTRA MARATHONS
Some months ago, we posted CHALLENGE RUNS. It features runs that youth can embrace as a personal challenge. Not a race or even a team run, but individual challenges.
Perhaps the simplest of the challenges is running just five minutes, or maybe a quarter or half mile, but repeating it once every hour. Whatever number of runs the runner finished in succession becomes their PR to be challenged the next time. A quarter mile loop run once every hour for 12 hours -- 9am to 8pm -- is a challenge but not out of reach for young runners in good condition. For more experienced runners -- those in top condition -- it might be every hour for 20 hours or even 24 hours.
Now imagine a variation of this as an event, a race. Meet the Ohio Backyard Ultra Marathon. In the Ohio run, runners have one hour to complete a 4.1mile trail/cross-country type circuit.
Those who make it back before the hour is up can rest a few minutes before starting the same circuit going off 60 minutes after starting the first run. Anyone who fails to complete any lap of the course in an hour will simply not be there to toe the starting line for the next run. They are recorded as DNF. Only the last man or woman standing is credited as finishing the race. In 2021, it was Ohio’s Harvey Lewis, 44, who completed 55 laps, one each hour on the 4.1-mile course, with a final distance of just over 228 miles. Second place was Jennifer Russo, 55, also from Ohio, who pushed Lewis for 54 laps. Her reward was intrinsic. Yes, she outdistanced the other 96 competitors, but was still a DNF.
BUYING THE RIGHT SHOES FOR YOUNG RUNNERS
Young runners need shoes that support the mechanics of running. Shoes that are not broken down, that fit properly and provide the right type of support for the child. Some coaches draw up a one-page guide to help parents get the right shoes for their runner. Here is what they generally include.
• Start with a store that specializes in running shoes, one where runners likely work. And take your child’s favorite (well worn) playground shoes with you. Explain what type of running your child does and hand the salesperson the shoes you brought. A knowledgeable salesperson will look for wear patterns that will tell them a lot about what your child needs.
• When the salesperson pulls a pair of shoes off the shelf, ask what that pair offers that others do not. If you get an answer that makes reasonable sense, you are probably in the right store. Next, wait for the salesperson to ask your child to run in the shoes he or she suggests, even if only a few yards. Some stores even have a treadmill. The salesperson will watch from behind and may do this again with another pair of shoes.
• Running shoes are designed for forward movement and that is what they should be used for: going forward, as in running. Using them for tennis or basketball, where lateral movement is called for, may cause a turned ankle which is not good. On top of that, using running shoes for everyday use shortens the structural integrity of the shoe, defeating the reason you bought them in the first place.
• For children, whose feet are collapsing inward (overpronation), a “stability-rated” shoe is an option. If the child’s foot continues to collapse inward when running, then orthotics become a consideration. In that case, consult an orthopedic physician or a podiatrist who regularly treats children. They are the experts. Understand, however, that many podiatrists discourage orthotics except in extreme cases of overpronation. The concern is that the support the orthotic offers may restrict the natural strengthening of the young runner’s foot and ankle.
A "GOLDEN NURTURING OPPORTUNITY"
Judith Brown Clarke, Ph.D., 1984 Olympic silver medalist in the 400 meter hurdles, Sports Illustrated Track and Field Sportsperson of the Year (1987), and member of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Board, has something to offer us on children’s running.
Now, decades after her stardom on the track, Clarke sees running as more than fast times and medals won. As a parent (now of adults), Clarke sees running as a golden nurturing opportunity. She says it starts with parents asking themselves what they want for their child. Is it a top finish in some children’s race? Or is it a strong, independent, physically active, confident child, endowed with the lifelong tools to succeed, to be healthy, to be productive?
According to Clarke, running gives children tools they can use for a lifetime. It is through running that children learn self-discipline and set and achieve their goals. It is through running they can find what Clarke says is “positive time,” that which allows them to reflect, to learn and to grow; to experience both success and disappointment and grow from each.
Clarke is, of course, right. Nurturing starts with parents promoting running as an experience, a journey, a learning opportunity, not an outcome: not an award, or a finishing time, or where the child placed in some race.
Dr. Clarke, thanks for sharing this with us!
TIME WELL SPENT
For young runners, and those who are new to running, having more time in the summer does not mean they should add more distance to what they have been doing. Yes, once a week maybe, but not every day. Instead, exercising for just a half an hour twice a day, each time with a purpose, would produce better results.
Consider encouraging your young runner to do a short run in the morning at a comfortable pace followed by a few strengthening exercises and stretching before showering and a healthy breakfast. In the afternoon or early evening, try a second short run with a few repeats, or maybe some hill-work once every few days. Add some drills and core exercises and call it good. This routine will strengthen all aspects of running, making the runner ready to go both longer and faster when starting school in the fall. Best yet, without the fatigue from a long run, the rest of the day will likely be more productive.
SPORTS SPECIALIZATION AND RUNNING
Today’s youth are moving away from seasonal sports in favor of competing in just one sport year-round. Why? Because the child, their parents, and too often the coaches, believe year-round participation is the key to being a star player. Youth soccer is the most visible and the most problematic, but soccer is not alone.
The enhanced risk of injury - the result of playing one sport year-round - is well documented. Not the broken bones of contact sports, but the result of repeated stress placed on immature tendons, bones and ligaments. The overuse injuries. Running, and particularly at the longer distances, with training and racing in the off-season, is textbook specialization. In one study, girls’ cross country was near the top in stress fractures and soft tissue injuries in all sports.
If our kids choose to go the single-sport route, we need to at least influence them to put cross-training into every off session. But that is just a start. Let’s think bigger. Start by seeing the off-season not as a time to build mileage but to reduce the risk of injury, to build strength, to come into the next season fresh, ready to do the work, anxious to run.
Thinking creative, consider fashioning the off-season as an inner-squad sport; one where every member’s improvement moves the team closer to some team goal. Think CrossFit style workouts and Ninja Warrior style courses; think personal and team “challenge events”, where every young athlete’s performance (strength, agility, technique, coordination) counts in the team score. Think “open house” events allowing the team to show off new muscles for mom and dad. A team with an honors night at the end of the season, recognizing the progress made by every member.
EARLY SPEED AND LONGEVITY
Jonathan Beverly, author of Your Best Stride and Run Strong, Stay Hungry, offers us a perspective on the role talent, fast times and high finishes by young runners play in longevity and future success in the sport. This perspective is drawn from veteran runners looking back on their own careers.
Beverly writes, “I’ve now coached high school kids long enough to see a generation of them grow up. One thing I have learned is that those who continue running into their adult lives often are not the ones you expect to.
“The state champions, the school record setters, the ones with the most medals and trophies at their graduation receptions often no longer run. The ones who are still running at age 25 or 30 and beyond tend to have been number four or five on the team, or even runners who never placed. The girl who didn’t run track but trained by herself and ran a half-marathon in high school is more likely to be on a starting line a decade later than the one who in seventh grade was setting records.
“Knowing this, I should not have been surprised by what I heard in scores of interviews with lifetime competitors about their own humble beginnings and their perspectives on their abilities. But I was. It is hard not to be dazzled by what they have accomplished in running, how high they have climbed and how fast they still are. But nearly without exception, these runners told me that they were never that good, or if good, not by any means great.”
For more from Jonathan Beverly, check out https://www.jonathanbeverly.com/
Amby (Ambrose) Burfoot is Mr. Running. A winner of the Boston Marathon; long time editor-in-chief of Runner’s World magazine; an honored journalist and author of seven books; a popular speaker and an online coach. His website, Lifetime Running, lets veteran runners share their story, the winners, and the also rans. Those who will not let age stop them.
Here, he shares with runners a message we all should embrace, especially parents and coaches of young runners.
“In running, it doesn't matter how fast or slow you are relative to anyone else. You set your own pace and you measure your own progress. You cannot lose this race because you are not running against anyone else. You're only running against yourself, and as long as you are running, you are winning.”
For young runners, reaching their potential will be years away. Sure, there are 10- and 12-year-olds racing with adults and posting fast times, but that is nothing new. And it is not an indicator of future success. For most young runners, it is a time to grow; to gain strength; to accept new challenges and cope with disappointments; to build on small successes. Some may become great runners. For others, it will be the pursuit of PRs or a proud display of finisher’s medals. But those are in the future. For now, pay attention to what Amby Burfoot has to offer. Youth should be focusing on setting their own pace; allowing time to grow, to get strong, to simply go a little farther or a little faster than last week or last month. That is what youth running should be about.
Douglas Finley, editor
MAKE GETTING STRONG FUN
It takes more than running to be a good runner. It takes strength to run fast. It takes working through a full range of motion and strengthening opposing muscle groups to reduce the risk of injury. It takes being athletic, being durable. Some of this is gained through running itself; others through dynamic stretching; and, of course, doing drills and strengthening exercises. For some, it is the exercise part that gets the least attention. Maybe because it is not as much fun.
For kids in a team environment, start with having them run circuits around the playground. Between each circuit have them draw a card from a deck of ordinary playing cards. Have a “scoresheet” which tells what exercise they must do determined by the card they hold. Drawing a Six of Diamonds could call for doing hip raises for the glutes and lower back. A Four of Spades could be forward leg swings for the hip flexors. The coach will assign the number of reps or distance, or time based on their knowledge of what the child can do.
For fun, throw in a few gag cards, like the Jack of Clubs, where the cardholder must recite a nursery rhyme while doing push-ups, or the Two of Hearts that when the exercise is completed the card can be passed to another runner who also must do the exercise. Any Ace calls for doing the exercise and then drawing a second card and doing that exercise. Hint: Out of 52 cards, five could be some version of crunches, etc. For more ideas, check out STRONG YOUNG RUNNERS on this website.
POSTAL CROSS COUNTRY - AN OLDIE REVISITED
Long before the NIKE Cross Nationals, it was Track & Field News that annually recognized a high school cross country team as being the best in the country, the Postal National Champion. That dates back to 1959. At that time, it was boys only. Gender equity in sports was still a long way off.
Teams would hold a two-mile intra-squad time trial on their track. The coach would add the individual times of the top five runners to determine a finishing time for the team. The results were mailed to T&FN. The team with the fastest finishing time was crowned champion. In its simplicity, the Postal National's was a huge success. By 1979, postal competitions gave way to FOOTLOCKER and later to the NIKE Cross Nationals. But now comes Covid-19.
Cross Country coaches at every level are looking for something different, something novel, something kids will have fun with. For starters, check out the HOKA ONE ONE Postal Nationals. Or create your own e-postal competition. To offset the loss of big invitational meets, make the intra-squad race an important event, complete with banners, a chute, the theme from Rocky and Chariots of Fire booming over a P. A. system, and posting video of the run-on social media. Maybe even do it at night under the lights. Also, consider putting runners who finish outside the top five onto a second or third postal team.
SETTING THE EXAMPLE
Tom Rothenberger, esteemed coach at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, believes parents possess the single best tool to get children to be more active, to be physically fit, to be healthy. It is a tool built on helping children enjoy being outdoors, getting exercise, but never being pressured, and certainly not rewarded for it. It is simply parents setting the example; by demonstrating that being active, being physically fit, are family values.
Rothenberger suggests parents who are not athletic themselves can still send a message that fitness is important by simply walking around the track or park while their child is running. The same is true by planning healthy meals and cutting out the unhealthy snacks. For a parent that runs, create opportunities to run as a family. When parents do this, they need to make sure it is the child’s run, not just a scaled back version of what they do. Best yet, let the child decide what the run will be. If they want to do an obstacle course, so be it. Just do the best you can, but don't get hurt!
Working one-on-one or in small groups is a perfect opportunity to teach kids the skill of pacing. All you need is a watch. For young runners, place a marker 20 to 30 meters from a starting line. Tell the runner to run around the marker and back at a comfortable speed. Time them, record their time, and allow a few minutes for the runner to fully recover. Then challenge the runner to run the course at the same time, down to the very second. When they do this successfully, great. But doing it once is not the goal. The goal is consistency. When they hit their target time four or five times in a row, reward them by adding some distance and starting over.
Next, create two loops of different lengths. The first being relatively short, maybe a minute or just slightly longer to complete. The second is three or four times as long and includes possibly a small hill or an in-route change in the running surface. Have your runner run the first loop, recover, and then run the second loop. Record their times. The challenge is to run each loop at the same time as the first time, or at least within two or three seconds on the longer loop. If you allowed three minutes to recover between each run the first time, stick to it. Again, when the runner hits both their times consistently, add distance (or some variation to the course) and start over.
COACHING PACE (CONTINUED)
Learning pace should be an ongoing part of a young runner’s training. Hitting target times over progressively longer distances (see last posting) is the beginning. Next, introduce a Prediction Run. Pick a course the runner is familiar with, run it once and record their time. Do it again a week later. Before they run the course a third time have the runner predict their finishing time using their past times as a guide. Only one rule: no wristwatch and no one yelling out times. If their finishing time is nowhere near their predicted time -- either fast or slow -- see if they can tell you why. But do not stop there. Make prediction runs a regular part of your runner’s routine; some at shorter distances and some longer.
Now, combine pace running with team running. For those who have been working on individual pacing, set a marker at 40 meters from a starting point. Form small teams of three or four runners. Have them run around the marker and back to the start, finishing together. Not in single file, but like a photo finish. Record their time. Now, challenge them to finish together in the same time, every time. Once they do it four or five times, extend the marker out 10 meters and start over. Later, encourage them to push the pace slightly on the first trial and try to match that pace each time.
A NEEDED BREAK FROM BEING SERIOUS
Underdog was an animated television series that ran for close to 10 years dating back to the mid-1960s. The Underdog character, in his blue cape with a U on his chest, sped to the scene wherever danger waited. Often it was just in time to save his love interest, Sweet Polly, from being victimized by the dastardly Simon Bar Sinister or the villain, Riff Raff. The show’s title song, Underdog, was etched in the memory of millions of loyal watchers.
In 2014, Reebok took the show’s title song and incorporated it into a running shoe ad. It gets rmy vote for the best running shoe commercial ever. Living in Evanston, lllinois, and frequently using Chicago’s mass transit system, I can visualize Underdog in his Reeboks and cape chasing across the city to save Sweet Polly. Check it out at…
RUN FOR JUSTICE
Our justice system is being challenged. To many, it is neither fair nor equal. And social injustices never seem to be addressed. What we see on television is troubling to adults, but even more so to kids. The images are confusing, even scary. For children of color, it is worse, much worse.
One way to help children deal with all of this is to get them involved. To let them do something to help America heal, to go forward. It starts by simply encouraging them to go out for a run. A special run, a run with a purpose. There is just such a run in your hometown, and every hometown in America. The virtual RUN FOR JUSTICE. It is not a 5K but whatever distance each runner is comfortable with. And there is no registration fee or T-shirt or starting time. It is just putting on running shoes and going out the front door. It is running for a cause; for justice; so everyone can realize the American dream.
GEORGE SHEEHAN ON PLAY
The late George Sheehan, a lifelong runner, physician, past medical editor of Runner’s World magazine, and author of eight best-selling books on running, told us the realization of fitness comes through play. According to Sheehan, we, young and old alike, need to make exercise our play since it is through play that we can realize fitness. “Play, you see, is the process,” Sheehan said. “Fitness is merely the product.”
For seasoned runners, 10 times 800 meters, each at target pace, might be play. It was for the author. Or running a marathon might be play. For youth, play are runs that offer doable challenges, runs that stimulate, runs that kids finish with a smile, runs that are absent of pressure and adult expectations. Sheehan’s prescription for fitness was simple - that play should define our running, for all of us, young and old.
TREADMILLS AND KIDS
Parents confronted with a stay-at-home mandate may see the treadmill in the basement as a way to get children active, moving, even running. Before parents make that decision, they should know that in the U.S. alone some 24,000 children under the age of 14 are injured on a treadmill every year. 24,000! Although some are infants or preschoolers, most are injuries to older children, the result of unsupervised or permissive use of the treadmill. Simply stated, when kids play on a treadmill, are showing off, or setting the speed faster than what they can run, they are likely to get injured. If the parent allows their child to use the treadmill, it goes with the responsibility of always being present, watching, vigilant, knowing that their child is using it safely.
For families, consider a parent and child Destination Run. Start at home or drive to some midpoint and go by foot the rest of the way. Maybe to a local landmark or the neighborhood where you once lived. If grandma and grandpa live nearby, they would be overjoyed to see their family, even if only through glass. And make it the child’s day. Parents can talk with each other anytime. A dialog that includes the child will make the distance seem shorter and the child’s memory of the day, longer.
The Journal of Youth Running is supported by the
MICHIGAN RUNNING FOUNDATION