Recreation

'Let Me Run' has powerful message

Ogden column: Program makes sport more than just a game

CEDAR RAPIDS — Their motto is pretty simple. And, after you hear their story, pretty powerful.

“Preparing Boys for the Long Run.”

Let Me Run held its spring Eastern Iowa Corridor 5K on Sunday, where 92 boys completed their session by running 3.1 miles.

A national organization based in North Carolina, Let Me Run has been around for more than 10 years and was started by Ashley Armistead to challenge the “Boys Code” — the “mask of masculinity” many grow up with, the “be a man” mentality. There are programs in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

The Eastern Iowa Corridor program started a little over a year ago and includes Linn, Johnson and Washington counties. The first 5K, which concludes each session, was held in the fall with 76 participants.

“It’s been growing pretty aggressively the last few years,” said Hailee Sandberg, regional director for the Eastern Iowa Corridor.

The program is for boys in fourth and fifth grade. There also is a middle school program.

“It’s a positive youth development program for boys,” Sandberg said, “giving boys the tools they need to be healthy — emotionally and physically.

“We have fun activities with lessons. They learn about teamwork and relationship skills. We teach them how to empower themselves.”

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Sounds a lot like what most youth athletic teams — or all athletic teams — should be about. But Sandberg, who has two active boys (ages 11 and 14), said Let Me Run is different.

“Each practice has a lesson that comes from a curriculum ... (that are) very strategic how they are planned,” she said,

Coaches will talk about things like “putting down the competition” or “how to celebrate me.” They also focus on healthy eating and team building, among many other topics.

“Goal setting is a big one,” Sandberg said, adding coaches talk about “smart goals,” as well as running goals and non-running goals.

Coaches have “intentional conversations” about the lessons and they do a lot of it while running.

“We get them moving and get them thinking,” she said.

But why running? Why not basketball or soccer or baseball?

“Running is very powerful,” Sandberg said. “It’s physically powerful. There’s also a community around running ... great people there.”

This program, it turned out, was perfect fit for Sandberg. She’s a trained social worker who has dealt with adults battling addiction issues. She felt running could have turned around a lot of lives, maybe even saved a few.

Although she was “not particularly athletic” in high school, she took up running in her early 30s.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I saw the value in running right away.

“It costs nothing and doesn’t matter how fast you are.”

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It’s been said many times in many ways, but being part of a team, playing a sport can change lives.

Here’s a statement on the Let Me Run website:

“Let Me Run is an effort to support our boys growing into their full potential — bodies, hearts, and souls, through the soles of their running shoes. So as we grow, we’ll continue to re-evaluate and change our lessons according to the current challenges boys face in leading both emotionally and physically active lives.”

Sport can be so much more than “games.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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