I’ve reached my one year anniversary as a race buddy with the New York Road Runners Association! I love running with kids — their energy is so outstanding because they think they can do anything. It’s crazy how as you get older you have to start making realistic goals. Having dreams is great, but you eventually notice there are limits as to what can get done in a certain time frame. Kids, on the other hand, are unstoppable.
The NYRR program is great and I’m sure very similar to the others that I’ve heard of throughout the year; Girls on the Run is something I want to look into for next year. Basically, the volunteer coordinator sends out an email every few months with upcoming races that need race buddies. So far, I’ve done the Jingle Bell Jog, Gridiron Classic, and the Norway Run. Once you get to the race, you get paired with your school (elementary or middle school age) and hang out with the team while they do stretches.
This is one of my favorite parts. Everyone is gathered in the circle and the team captains yell out the stretches while everyone follows along. Jumping jacks, jogging in place, anything to keep the heart rate up.
Sometimes the coach will tell me who specifically needs a motivating partner. This past weekend the coach’s instructions were simple: run with the team and figure it out. I’m not sure if he had any idea or just didn’t want anyone to feel embarassed, but I went along with it. I started running with a group of girls who were running at a pretty solid pace for a 4-miler and then noticed some girls behind me. I eventually kept falling back until I was with a girl named Shonette. After a few minutes I learned she was 12 years old and not a sprinter or long-distance, but she labeled herself as a jogger. Her words: “I go to practice and I run, and then I stop when I’m tired. And then I start again and then I stop.” I couldn’t help but snicker when she said this because it seemed logical. Why wouldn’t you stop when you’re tired?
I quickly learned this was going to be one of those “stop and go” experiences. However, I think it’s a great way for people to get into running who aren’t sure how to start. I had to somehow convince Shonette she had more in her than she thought, but at the same time not overwork her. I found that a great system is to pick a start and end point. To make it through the run, we would designate signs, rocks, or trees as markers. She found it much easier to have that goal (i.e. start at the next big tree and then run until the next traffic light), and sometimes she would even sprint to reach the next point.
We eventually finished the 6K route (it was supposed to be a 4M race but got cut short due to construction), coming in around 57 minutes. But that push to get her through the end and the smile on her face after was so great. We had really bonded over our run, and she even asked if I was coming back with her on the school bus. Kids say the darndest things :)
How did you ease into running? Did you start with a “run for 10 minutes approach” or did you also try the “run-walk method”? Do you participate in any running volunteer programs?