Youth running program back on track

Kids and coaches meet face-to-face after COVID-19 infections dwindle

Aurora Gloe, front, is leader of the pack during a Sept. 3 Girls on the Run practice session. (Sept. 3, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

After meeting virtually during 2020, participants in the Girls on the Run youth education program have returned to in-person practice. Fourth, fifth and sixth graders participating in the Cordova Family Resource Center began meeting Aug. 31 in preparation for an Oct. 30 5K run. Weekly in-person meetings will be supplemented by weekly virtual meetings.

At the Oct. 30 run, Girls on the Run participants will be joined by boys taking part in CFRC’s Let Me Run program. This is the first year CFRC has operated Let Me Run in the fall, following a similar model to that of Girls on the Run. In previous years, Let Me Run has been held as a summer camp culminating in a 5K run.

However, enrollment in the revamped Let Me Run has been low so far, organizers said. As of Monday, Sept. 6, five participants had enrolled in the Let Me Run program, with seven spots remaining available. Enrollment in the Let Me Run program will be available until the end of the day, Friday, Sept. 10.

“I think it’s because it’s a new program,” CFRC prevention coordinator Tania Carson said. “I think they don’t really know what to expect.”

Let Me Run will combine running practice with games and discussion intended to help boys build healthy friendships, increase their self-confidence and benefit from an encouraging environment, organizers said. Activities will focus on topics like anger management, positive self-talk and “balcony people and basement people,” a framework designed to help kids pick friends who encourage them. Other parts of the curriculum focus on physical health, including an activity illustrating the health effects of sugary drinks. Both Girls on the Run and Let Me Run will be coached by CFRC staff and by volunteers. Let Me Run coaches will also include male Cordova Jr./Sr. High School students interning with CFRC.

The Let Me Run program is intended to be enjoyable even for participants who aren’t strong runners, Carson said.

“You go at your own pace,” Carson said. “Every coach is very understanding… and will be there to encourage you and boost you and cheer you on. We’re building a team for them.”

A paper salmon used in an activity illustrating the effects of positive and negative self talk. (Sept. 3, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Girls on the Run participants will follow a curriculum similar to, but distinct from, that used by the Let Me Run program. The Girls on the Run curriculum features journaling and art projects used to reinforce the concepts introduced during meetings. Participants in either program will receive weekly packages including items relevant to that week’s activities, as well as miscellaneous goodies such as kaleidoscopes. New running shoes will also be provided. As in previous years, all program participants will receive an electronic exercise-monitoring watch similar to a Fitbit.

Participants in the Oct. 30 5K run will wear costumes with a superhero theme.

“The office is doing Marvel, but it’s up to the kids if they want to pick any kind of superhero — or just someone who inspires them, who they look up to,” said CFRC victim service/prevention program support Jessica Wray. “They could dress up as their mom or their dad, or they could dress up as the president, if that’s their superhero, that’s a role model for them.”

Participation in the programs requires a fee. However, grants from the Rasmuson Foundation and United Way have funded easy-to-access scholarships for all program participants. This means that, in practical terms, payment shouldn’t be a barrier to participation, organizers said.

In 2020, Girls on the Run participants received free electronic tablets to facilitate an online-only program, a feature not carried over into this year’s program. CFRC can be contacted at 907-424-5674 or at cfrc@ctcak.net.