PHOTO CREDIT: Champion Photo
The following NH RUNNER column appeared in the New Hampshire Sunday News on March 23, 2012.
I don’t know about you, but I once hated running. In fact, one of the most dreaded school days was the day we had to run the mile as part of the Presidential Challenge fitness test.
To the best of my recollection, we did not have any sort of build up or training. We just congregated on the school’s field, the gym teacher standing at one corner with a clipboard and whistle, and ran.
And I hated it. I hated not knowing, really, how far a mile was. I hated breathing hard and sweating. I hated the burning I felt in my lungs. I hated the kids who passed me with ease, trotting by with what seemed like little effort. I hated the fact that someone, somewhere had determined that how well we did in that mile “test” determined how fit we were.
I look back at those days now and laugh. Today, I love running. I love the freedom, the personal challenges and, yes, sometimes I love sweating and that burning feeling in my lungs.
Sometimes I wish I would have discovered the joy of running so much earlier, that someone would have shared the secret with me. That’s why I love when I hear of initiatives to support young runners.
Just before 11 a.m. today, 750 children will take place Leprechaun Kid Fun Runs, before the start of the Shamrock Shuffle in Manchester. Thanks to a sponsorship from MVP Healthcare, they can run the race (and any in the Millennium Running Series) for free.
It’s part of MVP’s commitment to get kids active, according to Rebecca Couture of MVP Healthcare, who added the initiative is also about getting the whole family out and active together.
“We want kids to come out and see what their parents are doing and maybe, just maybe, some parents will be motivated to run a road race, because their kids want to,” Couture said. “It goes both ways.”
In fact, the program has already inspired Couture herself. She will lace up her running shoes for her first-ever race today.
There’s little doubt that the streets will be lined with plenty of cheering fans as the younger runners hit the road. I know I’ll be there.
I’m also getting ready to help share my love of running with a group of elementary school girls as I prepare to become a volunteer coach for Girls On The Run.
The program uses running as a platform for its curriculum that teaches young girls about healthy eating, fitness, making good decisions, building self-esteem, setting goals and more. You know, all the skills and characteristics that running inherently helps us build.
In New Hampshire, the program has grown to about 400 girls, something I give the executive director of New Hampshire’s Girls on the Run chapter, Jen Hubbell a lot of credit for. Her passion and enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s no wonder that there is a waiting list at many of the participating schools.
In a little more than a week, I’ll meet my new team, a group of 15 girls in grades 3 through 5 at Green Acres School in Manchester. Over the course of 10 weeks, they will learn about self-respect and a healthy lifestyle while training for a 5K.
On June 16, all of the Girls On The Run teams from across the state will convene for their grand finale, a 5K event that serves not only as a celebration of their accomplishments but also as a fundraiser for the non-profit. I encourage you to join us, whether to cheer or to run.
I’m excited to get to know my new team, to learn from them, to grow with them and to help them cross the finish line. In turn, they will probably teach me a lot about having fun, supporting each other and making up silly cheers. (Like this!)
Whatever happens, I’m pretty sure it will be a whole lot better than the one-mile fitness test I had in middle school.
Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.