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Ten-year-old Zach Craig enjoys running with his friends after class at York’s Harold C. Johnson Elementary School. They’re also learning “about what’s good for the body, so I can run,” he said. The boys have signed on to Let Me Run, a seven-week nonprofit program for elementary- and middle school-aged boys aimed at strengthening them “in body and in spirit.”
Ten-year-old Zach Craig enjoys running with his friends after class at York’s Harold C. Johnson Elementary School. They’re also learning “about what’s good for the body, so I can run,” he said.
Zack and his friends are busy training to do a lot more running. They plan to participate in a 5K race Dec. 8 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway with about 600 other boys in grades four to eight.
The boys have signed on to Let Me Run, a seven-week nonprofit program for elementary- and middle school-aged boys aimed at strengthening them “in body and in spirit.” The program, started three years ago and based in Charlotte, now has over 700 boy participants in nine states.
Kathleen Mills, a Reading Recovery teacher at Harold C. Johnson, is coaching York’s first Let Me Run program for nine boys at her school. Three schools in Clover also have launched the program — Griggs Road and Crowders Creek elementaries and Oakridge Middle.
Lori Klingman, vice president of Let Me Run, said it was founded by Charlotte mom Ashley Armistead, who has two sons and realized the need for the program. Armistead had coached a similar program for girls, called Girls on the Run, Klingman said.
Klingman said boys are often taught that they’re supposed to be aggressive and tough, “but on the inside, they have the same emotions, and we need to teach them how to deal with them.”
Let Me Run meets twice a week for running and a lesson from the established curriculum. Topics include bullying, positive competition, nutrition and lifestyle choices, being a good role model, everyday heroes and coping with issues like anger. Older boys learn about leadership.
“I think our program is really focused on boys knowing their own self worth,” Klingman said. “And sharing with them the tools to help them reach their own self potential.”
Many of the lessons include concrete exercises to help boys grasp the point. In one lesson, she said, groups of boys get a tube of toothpaste and are told to squeeze all the paste onto a paper plate.
They have a great time making a mess with the toothpaste, she said. When they’re done, she said, they’re told to put the paste back in the tube, which they soon learn is impossible.
What follows is a lesson about how angry words and deeds can’t be taken back. “Now, you’re left with a huge mess. It might be a suspension; it might be a broken friendship,” Klingman said. “We try to keep our supplies simple but make the lesson have a strong impact.”
Mills said each session begins with the boys running as a group to support each other. When they recently did a two-mile timed run, she said, everyone had finished except one boy, who still had a lap to finish.
The other boys “all ran the last lap with him, so he wouldn’t be running by himself,” Mills said.
Brian Younger, 9, a fourth-grade student, said the program has made him want to compete in track and field in high school. He said Let Me Run has taught him “better skills in all subjects.”
But the best part, he said, is “I get to run and be with my friends.”
Let Me Run offers leadership training to coaches; spring training will be Feb. 10 in Charlotte, and the program will be from mid-March to the 5K on May 18, Klingman said. For more information, visit letmerun.org.