Pushing a kid in a stroller up Grant Park’s steep hills is harsh. Pushing two makes it more like Groan-and-Grunt Park, but it’s good for me, it’s good for them, and it’s great for us. So, I can and will keep doing this, because I can’t stop thinking about can’t.
There are few things worse for kids than can’t. Not the kind of can’t that will spoil their dinner (“No, you can’t eat that handful of Reese’s cups”), but the type that comes from lack: can’t afford, can’t get there, can’t overcome. Now, with life stalled out by COVID-19, can’t go to school safely, and can’t participate in activities.
That’s where we began. Coaching kids in track and cross country informed my decision to found rnnr. Specifically, the joy my students, these vibrant youths, took from the athleticism and rivalry in running; and our shared ache when they couldn’t, for the cost of gear or training, lack of transportation to meets, or personal obstacles in their private lives. Schools are ever underfunded and not everyone has access to what they need.
We contribute part of rnnr’s proceeds to those efforts, so kids can have better access, and they could from a young age get a firmer hold on a lifelong love of running, and daily devotion to it. But, in the depths of my uphill huffing and puffing, listening to my son, Miller, tell me about his cartoons and trucks, I realized it had to go deeper: we needed to connect with families, like the ones in which we grew up and the one we’ve made.
We’re expanding now on those efforts, first with access and now toward agency, to help kids and caregivers cultivate those life-long habits early, with the family. If we can snag the family, get them to declare their shared intention, give them a structure on which to frame their training, and work to a goal, then it benefits the whole unit. We talked this over with our friends at Vert.run, who developed a family-specific 5K training program to get the family on it! Do it together, and be better together.
COVID-19 has changed the face of adolescent athletics, where it was already difficult to keep youth engaged with running as a lifelong love. There were limited running programs available to the under-14 age group, and they would get drawn off to other organized sports and away from the thrill of running.
This family- and beginner-friendly 5K training program will give them that sport back, and put them out in their community, seeing new places, achieving goals, even meeting new friends. It’s going to be a while before organized sports
We also see this manifest in the Atlanta Grand Prix, rnnr’s 12-week race series on six set courses throughout the city. We wanted to make a longer course and a shorter one, not only to accommodate everyone’s abilities, but so parents could run with their children if desired. And that’s what Chris and Annabel Fox are doing.
Chris is a southern ultramarathon fixture, showing up and grinning his way through anything from a half marathon to backcountry, over-mountain 100-milers. But at home, he and his daughter Annabel have been hitting the streets and trails together around their Monroe Avenue home. They would go out for a half-mile or mile on the unpaved Eastside BeltLine trail, have an adventure together, and steadily increase her mileage. This dynamic duo even showed up to some group runs together, before the pandemic settled in.
Now Annabel can handle a 5K readily, and they’ve raced two of six Atlanta Grand Prix courses together. She’s first in her age group, with four more races to go!
Think about the last time you toed the line at a race, road or trail, and saw someone’s dewey-faced 9-year-old next to you. The whistle blows and that kid’s nothing but serious, committed to the race and their best effort. Their parent’s right there with them, hyping them up as they pull away and you know that’s one of the best things you’ll see all day. And maybe that could be you and yours.
With our free Vert.run 5K training plan, the eight weeks will go like this: the first two will introduce the team (aka the family) to walk-runs, and some strength training and core exercises, to help them acclimate to the activity as well as commitment to the shared routine. Then the walk-runs will increase in time and distance over the next two weeks, so the family grows. Weeks five and six bring you into full-on runs, with varied paces and distances, for a natural transition and to keep it fun. And, finally, in the last two weeks, you’ll get ready together for your big 5K day: preparation, recovery, taper, and day-of.
TL;DR, here’s how the training plan goes:
- Family gets off the couch and out of the house.
- Family starts walking, then running together.
- Family dominates the 5K podium (probably).
You can do it, and you can sign up for our free training plan at vert.run/rnnr. For all the things you can’t do at present, here’s something, from us to you, that your family can: today, tomorrow, and after.