Start a kids’ running program
When Parkersburg’s River City Runners and Walkers holds an adult event, they have a children’s event too. There are races for teenagers and events for toddlers. “We do whatever we can to make it fun for them and make them want to come,” said longtime board member Sharon Marks. “It’s non-competitive. It’s about running for fun.”
Every kid who runs gets a prize, she said. “This is about getting them to have fun running with other kids and maybe to improve their own time, but not so much competition,” she said. They don’t drill kids or make them work out. Sometimes they dress up in costumers. Sometimes they chase the grownups. Sometimes there’s an obstacle course.
When a kid participates in their first event of the year, he or she gets a T-shirt. Then for every event after that, he or she gets an iron-on star for the T-shirt. “They love those stars!” Marks said.
At the end of each season, hundreds of kids and their families gather at the Parkersburg YMCA for a party. Every kid who has five stars is invited to bring his or her whole family to
a party, to swim, play basketball, and do whatever the Y offers. Then they all get awards and eat ice cream and cake.
“A lot of parents have started running because of their kids,” Marks said. “We go out and speak in the schools and send materials home. The parents see it’s a good deal and they enroll their kids, then they start running too.”
The club also raises money for running shoes for young people who can’t afford them. In 2012, the bought more than 100 pairs of running shoes for low-income children.
They have also created after-school running clubs in all the high schools. “This is already a running town, and ten years from now, it will be even more so,” Marks said. “If these kids start loving to run now, chances are, they’ll be in good shape ten years from now.”
Want regular kids’ running events in your community?
In Jefferson County, the adult running community organizes regular childrens’ events such as this obstacle course race. The proceeds from the huge yearly Freedoms Run pays for fitness trails at the county elementary schools.
- Pull together a variety of groups that might help: churches, scouts, adult runners.
- Visit a River City Runners event or another community with kids’ runs. Talk with the people who organize the events. Borrow their ideas.
- Keep it fun! Don’t drill them. Make them laugh. Make them want to come back. Create obstacle courses, costume races, Chase-the-grownups races, whatever fun thing you can think of. Give every kid who ran a ribbon or other prize. Pedometers and trying to improve your personal best are great.
- Kids Run the Nation, the youth running program of the Road Runners Club of America guide, has lots of ideas. http://www.rrca.org/programs/kids-run-the-nation-program
- A much more informal how-to: About.com’s “How to start a kids’ running club.” http://familyfitness.about.com/od/schoolagekids/ht/kids_running_club.htm
- “How to start a family running club:” Terrific ideas for any kind of kids’ club. Click on the pictures at the bottom for the tips. http://www.babble.com/latina/tips-for-starting-a-family-running-club-how-to-keep-the-kids-motivated
- “How to teach kids to love running.” Runners World article. http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/how-teach-kids-love-running?page=single