JUST RUN for Kids

Before each school year, we discuss the problem of childhood obesity, and how our local youth running program is an effective weapon for fighting this battle.

We know our ranting sounds the same each year – so this time, we’ll make a deal with you: once the epidemic is reversed in Monterey County, we’ll stop mentioning it every fall. Until then, we’ll do everything we can to promote the Just Run program.

Just Run is a free, school-based program created by the Big Sur Marathon Board of Directors to help get kids running and learning about healthy eating. Last year, 42 schools in Monterey County participated, and over 4,000 children ran a combined 134,000 miles in the Just Run program.

We’d love to see every school in Monterey County participate in the program. If your child’s school does not have a Just Run program, please talk to your principal about getting one started. The website http://www.justrun.org/ has all the information you need about the program, and you can also contact Just Run Director Susan Love at 625-6226 or susanwlove@sbcglobal.net to find out more.

Just Run has won several awards including the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness’s first ever Gold Medal for best youth program in California. Susan Love received Running USA’s award as national youth program contributor of the year. The program has been featured in Runner’s World magazine in the past, and will be profiled again in the next issue of the magazine.

There are some upcoming Just Run introductory meetings for principals, teachers, parents, or interested community members scheduled in the next few weeks:

Thursday, September 6th, from 4:30 to 6PM at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Downing Resource Center.

Monday, September 10th, from 5 to 6:30PM at the Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill.

Tuesday, September 11th, from 5 to 6:30PM at the Marriott Hotel in Monterey.

Monday, September 24th, from 5 to 6:30PM at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco.

As you can see from the list, the program has been so successful in Monterey County that Santa Clara, San Benito, and San Francisco area schools have asked that the program be expanded to their areas.

The beauty of the Just Run program is that anyone can become a leader with the web-based information model. It only takes one enthusiastic person at a school or youth group to implement a successful program – teacher or parent, runner or non-runner. The website provides everything the leaders need to know regarding age appropriate activities, stretching, and nutrition.

The website also has downloadable forms such as parent permission forms, family fitness contracts, recommended fitness drills, logs for recording mileage, healthy fundraiser forms, and even mile markers. All of these are provided in Spanish and English.

Just Run sponsors several children’s races in conjunction with local running events. Children can do races (ranging from 400 meters to 5K) almost year round - from the Stevenson Run in the Forest on Sept. 22nd, to the Run Forrest Run at Cannery Row on November 11th, and the Together with Love Run in Pacific Grove in February.

Besides emphasizing running and healthy activity, the Just Run program promotes good citizenship through its Just Deeds program, which also teaches children goal setting, responsibility, and cooperative team spirit.

One of the most innovative parts of the website is the Run Across the USA. School groups accumulate their mileage and post it online. Their group’s personalized Just Run shoe logo gradually travels across a map of the United States as the group runs more miles. There are hundreds of links to historical, geographical, and fun locations as the group virtually runs across the United States. Teachers can link this trip to school curriculums to help brings these locations to life.

Upcoming Events

We are excited to announce some very special first time Just Run events planned for Monterey this year:

Whole Foods Market in Del Monte Center is having a Just Run day on Wednesday, September 5th. Five percent of the store’s sales on that day will be donated to the Just Run program. An informational table will be set up in front of the store so that you can donate or learn more about the program. Fleet Feet Sports, a few doors down from Whole Foods will also be participating with a similar donation. We applaud Whole Foods and Fleet Feet for their generous support of Monterey County’s youth.

The Big Sur Marathon, the City of Monterey, and Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula are planning a Just Run series of children’s races in downtown Monterey near the Custom House Plaza on Saturday morning, November 10th. This is the day before the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay and the Run Forrest Run 5K on November 11th. Definitely mark this weekend on your calendar.

November 10th will be dedicated to kid’s races, fun activities, and health screenings. November 11th will be devoted to adults doing their best in the Half Marathon and the 5K. It’s an ideal weekend to promote fitness activities on the Central Coast.

Just Run is definitely making a positive impact on children in Monterey County, and so can you. Make sure your children get involved in a Just Run program at their school, and encourage them to participate in the childrens’ races this fall. Go shopping at Whole Foods and buy shoes from Fleet Feet on September 5th. Your participation will be greatly appreciated!

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Opening the Mailbag

It’s been several months since our last mailbag column, so as you can imagine, our inbox has been bursting at the seams lately with all the e-mails we receive.

OK … that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But occasionally we do get running-related questions, and we enjoy providing answers whenever someone contacts us. Here are some questions we’ve received over the summer:

“I always see runners jogging in place on street corners while they wait for the lights to change. Is there any benefit to that?” Most people’s reactions to seeing someone bobbing up and down on a street corner dressed in running clothes is a mixture of mockery and pity. It may surprise you to hear that we completely agree.

Let’s face it, bouncing on a street corner looks pretty silly. It’s an open invitation for drivers to scoff at the “silly runner”. And there’s really no training benefit from hopping up and down in the middle of a run just to keep moving for a few extra seconds. So our advice is, just DON’T do it.

If you simply must keep moving, walk back and forth a bit, or stretch your legs until the light turns green. Then run as quickly as you can to a park, recreational trail, or anyplace else where you can run continuously and not worry about looking like a dancing clown.

“I’m 64, is it too late to start a running program?” It is never too late to start a walking or running program! We have had four runners in our Big Sur Marathon training program over the years, who started running when they were 70 or older, and they all finished the marathon. Don’t just take our word for it, though - because scientific evidence backs us up on this one.

Several studies have shown that anyone can reverse many of the negative effects of poor nutritional and fitness habits if they stick to a running program for 6 months and modify their diet. In other words, even if you are a lifetime couch potato, you can still lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, decrease your risk of getting cancer or heart disease, reduce your stress levels, improve your immune system, and gain other benefits from beginning an exercise program.

So stop slacking, and get out there, Grandma!

“Should I say hello or wave to other runners as they go by? We love questions about social etiquette while running. On this subject, the answer is somewhat determined by where you run and how many other runners you see.

Most people enjoy a smile and a hello. But if you’re running on the Rec Trail on a beautiful summer afternoon when there are hundreds of walkers, joggers, inline skaters, or moms with stroller-fitness groups sharing the trail, you’ll lose your voice trying to say hi to everybody.

In most situations, when runners are few and far between, it’s usually a nice gesture to wave and acknowledge other runners as they go by. Just by being out there running, you’re sharing a common experience, and probably have similar lifestyles.

There are two ways to approach the greeting:

When going in opposite directions: Go ahead and say hello or good morning or whatever greeting you are comfortable with. You can also do wordless acknowledgements like a smile or a slight nod, or any slight upward move of the hand and wrist that could be interpreted as a wave.

It’s probably a good idea to avoid high-fives – especially if the lady coming the other way is a 64-year-old woman starting a new running program. The last thing we want is to cause a rash of shoulder dislocations.

When going in the same direction: This is a situation of one runner (or group) passing another, so be careful not to say anything demeaning. A simple hi or good morning works well here, but you’ll probably have a few extra seconds to comment on the weather or ask about a logo on someone’s shirt.

Be aware, however, that some runners aren’t overly chatty – so if you make a couple of charming comments and don’t get a response, recognize that the other person prefers to run in silence. (Either that, or she’s just not into you – but that’s a whole separate column.)

Should I run every day or take a few days off a week? This one depends entirely on your goals as a runner and your reasons for running. Most competitive age-group runners train almost every day. For recreational runners we suggest you run 3 or 4 days per week for 30 minutes to an hour each time.

As a general rule, the more mileage you run, the faster you’ll become – but there is also a direct relationship between increased mileage and higher injury risk. So if you plan on increasing your running days and/or mileage, be very conservative and build up to the new threshold over a period of several months.

If you get “edgy” by having a day without running, you can always cross-train by cycling, swimming, hiking, or going to the gym for some strength work. Over a long period of time, you’ll develop greater overall fitness without increasing your injury risk.

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That’s all we have room for today – but feel free to contact us anytime with your questions!

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Incentive to Get Started

One of our primary reasons for writing our column is to encourage everybody to maintain a regular exercise program.

Regular aerobic exercise is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re a walker, jogger, in-line skater, marathon runner, or swimmer. Believe it or not, we wouldn’t even mind if you’re a cyclist. The point is to pick an activity, and get out there and do it!

Of course, the two of us are partial to running, and we’re determined to find a way to get new people to join us. That’s why we describe the joy that running provides, and the excitement we feel when racing. We talk about the camaraderie we find from our fellow runners, and how being runners influences the way we see the world.

But if all of that doesn’t work … we’re not above resorting to bribery.

Luckily, we have like-minded allies who want to help you get started. Our friends Walt and Robin Dambkowski at Fleet Feet in Del Monte Center (near Whole Foods Market) are extending a generous offer to new runners. Between now and August 15th, if you go to their store and mention our Running Life column, they will give you a 25% discount on your first pair of shoes.

Fleet Feet specializes in finding the right shoes for new runners. Their staff can help you get a perfect fit on a pair of walking or running shoes, and they can also help you select running-specific clothing and other gear to help you get started.

Buying the gear is the easy part. Starting a new running program can be a bit tougher. But don’t be intimidated by the notion of becoming a runner. Everybody has to start somewhere.

The most important thing is to be determined. Make up your mind that you will succeed, and then go about the process of improvement.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

Schedule your workout time. If it’s difficult to find time for running, make an appointment with yourself just as you would an important meeting at work. The specific time of day doesn’t matter. Try for three “appointments” per week. For newcomers, anything between 5 and 30 minutes of running is plenty.

Don’t think of it as a “program” or “project”. Exercise should just be something you do. Don’t worry about running a specific distance or feel pressure to enter a race. Feel good about whatever you are able to do, and make a commitment to continue.

Create a habit. The discipline to stick with a schedule and alter your activity habits is extremely important, but sometimes it takes a while to develop. It’s natural to experience some difficulty during the first month or so, but then it becomes gradually easier. So give yourself some time and don’t expect miracles overnight. Remember – you’re seeking long-term results.

Find a friend. One of the key factors in maintaining any exercise program is having someone to exercise with. It can be your spouse, your child, a work acquaintance, or some random stranger you meet at a group run. Having an exercise partner makes you accountable, and helps pass the time during workouts. Best of all, before too long, that relative stranger may become a good friend.

Have fun! Running shouldn’t be drudgery. Training time is playtime. Think of it as recess from your daily grind.

Dr. George Sheehan was a modern-day running philosopher who once wrote: “Heed the inner calling to your own play … you can reawaken the passion, relive the dream, and recapture your youth.” We feel exactly the same way - running makes us feel like kids on a playground, every single day.

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So … NOW do you think you can start running?

We know it can be difficult to get started. Sometimes it takes a push. In that regard, you may consider this column a great big shove from the two of us. As far as enticements go, we don’t think we can do much better.

Dr. Sheehan also wrote, “My fitness program was a campaign, a revolution, a conversion. I was determined to find myself. In the process, I found my body and the soul that went with it.” We want our readers to find themselves in the same way.

So go to Fleet Feet at Del Monte Center and buy a pair of discounted shoes. Then start making fitness and exercise a priority in your life. And if you need any advice along the way, feel free to contact us at anytime.

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