Teamwork, unity and respect go a long way. The Let Me Run program for pre-teen to teenage boys led by trained coaches in the community guides the boys through lessons of well-being, such as respect, positive competition and nutrition. At the end of the seven-week program, the boys celebrate their hard work by running a 5k road race.
As a non-profit organization with its roots based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Let Me Run has chapters in 16 regions and is growing exponentially to fill the void in the United States for programs that offer boys encouragement, empowerment and a sense of fulfillment. Lesson plans include “Real Men Show their Feelings, Everyday Heroes, and Getting to Know You,” and connect boys sole to soul by encouraging full expression of their individual feelings.
Founder, Ashley Armistead was a Girls on the Run coach looking for a similar opportunity for boys, a safe after-school program that allowed for healthy self expressionism through exercise. “I have always believed that running develops happier and healthier children. It demands that you bring your best attitude and a positive spirit. Running does not respond to status or appearance, just a big heart and good energy,” said Armistead.
The St. Louis Chapter of Let Me Run is off to a successful start and encourages boys of any ability to sign up for the program regardless of running experience. Practices are held two times per week and start with a unity lap, followed by stretches, running and activities. Then, each practice ends with the mantra — “Let me be me. Let me reach out. Let me run.”
Two seasons of Let Me Run are offered, in spring and fall, and the cost of the program is $100, which includes support from trained coaches, Let Me Run curriculum lessons, a technical fabric t-shirt, Let Me Run branded giveaways, a 5k entry and a race medal. Let Me Run wants to ensure that boys from all socio-economic backgrounds can join and offers sponsorship opportunities to off-set the cost of the program for qualified individuals.
As founder Armistead claims, running develops happier and healthier children and local coaches agree and echo the merits of the program. Gabriel Sison, a coach for St. Cecelia last spring, is attending this fall’s coach orientation and is already looking forward to working with the boys. “The program is great,” Sison said. “It has a powerful effect on the boys, and I’m very proud to be a part of organization. The most important lesson they teach is the challenging of the “boy code,” and our current standards of masculinity. It’s okay and healthy to express your feelings and to show emotion. That’s a very hard lesson to learn and teach, issues that virtually all males struggle with at one point or another in their lives.”