Take 5 To Run

Our previous column was delivered from atop a soapbox, lamenting the obesity problem that plagues the health and well-being of American children. Unfortunately, the last 30 years of public service announcements, nutritional education, and instruction on physical activity has done little to curb the epidemic, as kids (not to mention adults) are still getting fatter.

So this week’s column is a call to action, and we’re encouraging all of our running friends to get involved. It’s time to stop talking about the issue, and start DOING something about it.

If you’re like us, you know how great running makes you feel, both physically and mentally. You know how beneficial it is for your cardiovascular health and emotional well being. You also know how rewarding it feels to share these experiences with others.

So here’s what we want you to do: participate in an effort called “Take 5 to Run”. It’s not an official program; in fact, we just made it up. But the premise is pretty simple, and has the potential to be highly effective.

Look at the numbers. There are currently 30 million adults who claim they run at least a few times a month. 10 million of them run “regularly” and entered organized races last year. These are the people who we’re asking to Take 5 to Run.

Over the course of one year, invite 5 of your non-running friends for a run. Encourage them to get started, help them select shoes if needed, and take them on an easy jog. Help them through the initial uncertainty, and celebrate their every accomplishment on their way to starting a running program.

Later, ask them to pay it forward; once they are established runners, recommend that they take another 5 people out for a run. And so on and so on. Do the math: if 10 million runners recruit 50 million non-runners, and that group grows to 250 million in a couple of years … before you know it we have a nation of runners and the obesity trend is reversed.

Obviously, we aren’t naive enough to think that everyone will successfully convert 5 others, but we optimistically believe that many of you are capable of drawing new runners in. As long as the numbers trend in the right direction, we’ll still end the epidemic. So how do you instruct someone to start? Remember the name of the game.

Take 5 to Run is a phrase that can also be used as a blueprint to get friends or kids started. The first run or walk should only be 5 minutes. Aim for a habit of 5 minutes per day, 5 days a week. Tell 5 people about it, for moral support and to hold yourself accountable. Select one day to increase your distance by 5 more minutes, and then another day, and then another and another as you continue to improve.

We’d also love to see the running industry step up and help people Take 5 to Run. Shoe companies or specialty running stores could give discounts to those who are buying their first pair of shoes and mention Take 5 to Run. Races should give discounts to those who are entering their first race after they’ve Taken 5 to Run. Get some national running organizations on board, and who knows where this might end up.

But for the time being, it can all begin with you. Take the pledge, and Take 5 to Run.

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