Could a running program change the lives of kids?

by jon on April 8, 2012

A few months ago I connected with the founder of Let Me Run here in Charlotte. If you haven’t heard of them, they are the boys equivalent of Girls on the Run which has been wildly successful. The founder’s name is Ashley Armistead, and she is an amazing person. Every time we have a conversation over coffee I leave feeling incredibly energized like I am witnessing someone change the world. So what is it about her and her organization that makes such an impact on me?

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As stated on the website, “Let Me Run is a non-profit prevention program aimed at strengthening boys in body and spirit. Our mission is to encourage boys to stay on track to living into their full potential by inspiring healthy friend, family and community relationships.” Essentially they use the power of running as a tool to inspire young boys to embrace their own authenticity, lead for positive change, learn self-awareness and really connect to other people. And all the while they are teaching simple ways to live healthy with exercise and nutrition. One of the first training sessions is an exercise where they ask each of the boys to share a weakness to show that when we are real with each other, we are more connected. As you might imagine, I was completely hooked after my first conversation with Ashley.

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What I described in that last paragraph was Ashley’s vision along with many other amazing people involved in the organization. She once told me that the main reason she started Let Me Run was that she had two young boys and wanted them to grow up in a different world. She took action where she saw a huge need in our society and is out there driving transformational change. Isn’t that amazing? And how do you think this passion to make a difference affects her family? What an example she is for her boys.

And you may ask, why did she pick running? I think this quote from her coaches manual says it all.  “Running levels the playing field. It demands that you bring your best attitude and a positive spirit. Running does not care what car you showed up in or what labels are on your clothes. Running shows your vulnerable side. It brings a dose of humility, which opens you up to new ideas and friendships. Running creates a spirit of hope that what you honestly put in you will get out. It helps us feel connected to others and nature.” Just beautiful.

Check out Let Me Run Alaska!

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The program continues to grow and has been nationally recognized as a leading boys education program by a Harvard Medical School professor named William Pollock. Dr. Pollock is an internationally recognized authority on boys and men and the Founder & Director of the REAL BOYS© Educational Programs.

So let me share quick story I heard recently about the program. The boys spend seven weeks training for a 5K and then all run the race together. At one race recently, half the participants from one school finished before their other teammates. The first thing they wanted to do was run back and finish with their other teammates. So they could all do it together. The amazing thing about this story is imagine how that affected the other kids and parents watching. That is the core of what I mean by 1 + 1 > 2. By these kids just being themselves and showing compassion, they impacted all the people around them. I just love it!

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So when I heard that Let Me Run had a need for coaches this spring, I jumped at the opportunity. I will be coaching a team of 4th graders at Nations Ford Elementary. And the old football guy in me is incredibly excited. I will try not to wear the old Bike coaching shorts and high striped socks but can’t promise anything.

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Charlotte sure has some amazing people that really want to make a difference. Ashley and her staff at Let Me Run are a prime example of that. They have such a vision for the future of our children, and it is so inspiring to be around. Sometimes I think about what kind of legacy we are leaving in our world. Ashley Armistead and Let Me Run feel that “upon leaving the program we watch for our boys to take responsibility for all aspects of their health and confidently lead for positive change around them.” I sure feel aligned with leaving that kind of legacy. Have a great week.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica April 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I love this post, Jon! Coaching for Girls on the Run was one of my all-time favorite experiences!! The girls didn’t realize how much they were teaching me each day. I have no doubt you’ll feel the same way about your boys. Thanks for sharing about Let Me Run!

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jon April 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Thanks Jessica! That is awesome that you are a Girls on the Run Coach. I can’t wait to get started and truly believe I will learn so much from these kids. They sure have a unique way of impacting us. Please share any good coaching suggestions with me! Hope you are well.

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