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Tips for encouraging children and teens to run

“Youth programming is the one thing in our organization where we’ve seen an increase,” Holder said.

This includes both the club’s Kilometer Kids program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade and its competitive teams for high school students.

When schools were closed earlier in the pandemic, parents launched Kilometer Kids programs in neighborhoods, said Madison Hafitz, who oversees the program. Since 2000, the program has grown each season, to 85 sites in fall 2022 with approximately 4,000 children enrolled.

More youth programs can also expand the community of adult runners. Basil Rowell had to run to pass physical fitness tests in the Navy, but stopped after retiring in 2006. His eldest son, Yosif, ran a local one-mile race in Norfolk, Virginie, when he was 6 years old, and he loved it..

“I said, I needed to get in shape so I could start running with him,” Rowell said.

Rowell hated running in the Navy, but with a different drive he found he enjoyed it. He started seeing the same people at different races, another change from when he was in the Navy and often away from Norfolk. He has become involved in the local running community and is vice-captain of the Hampton Roads chapter of Black Men Run.

Yosif, now 16, runs for his high school team, and his younger brothers, who are 13 and 9, also run. Sometimes all four run together.

“My thing is to show them there’s an event,” Rowell said. “Me, growing up, I didn’t know they had races.”

Program organizers and professional runners both suggested focusing on progress and goal setting rather than when children and teens are encouraged to run.

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