Run for Your Life

Appears in the January 2020 issue.

By Cara Sullivan

Really? Every kid? Yep. The key is to have them join a running club, and to do it while they’re young. For elementary school-aged kids, running clubs are more about being part of a team and building relationships than anything else. Getting too competitive too quickly can lead to burnout later on, so it’s important to put the emphasis on the fun parts of the sport while they’re little.

But what about the kid who says “I hate running”? I’d say give it three weeks and then talk. I tell the girls I coach, either when they first join or when they come back from a break, you will hate it for three weeks. And it will feel like it’s not going to get better, and then all of a sudden it clicks. Start by alternating running with walking and slowly increase the time and distance. It takes a lot of patience.

Can you recommend a few local running clubs? At Metea Valley High where I coach, our girls cross-country athletes have partnered with a few of the elementary schools in District 204 to start the Girls Who Run after-school program. For young athletes, I think some of the best running groups are summer programs those sponsored by the local high school for summer running.

What positive changes can parents expect to see in their kids once they join? Confidence! Running teaches kids that while reaching a long-term goal takes hard work, persistence—and a lot of highs and lows—that feeling of accomplishment when you get there makes it all worthwhile. There are obvious physical benefits, too. People really underestimate what 30 minutes of daily exercise can do for your body and mind. And if they play other sports, it’s a great way to build endurance.

Obviously, the right shoes make all the difference. Any favorites? For starters, make sure you’re buying a running shoe. A lot of brands make athletic shoes that look cool, but aren’t supportive enough for training. I train in Nikes, but there are other good brands out there. I recommend going to a running store—Naperville Running Company, Geneva Running Outfitters, and Dick Pond Athletics are all great—where a staff member can help you choose the right shoe.

Photograph by Olivia Kohler