When I was a kid, the most dreaded of all PE activities was the mile run. In my young mind, running was the punishment for participating in all the fun sports. Yet, there was just something primal about the mad dash to home base, or the reckless run across the playground to avoid getting tagged “it.” Or how about the sprint to the car after a boring grocery store outing (hey, it was the 1980s — we lived life on the edge!)?
There were two classifications of running: The joyful, spontaneous sort and the required, “quit your whining” sort.
FACT: It is really difficult (nearly impossible) to enjoy something forced upon you. No adult at that time could have convinced me otherwise. Run? As a sport? No thanks!
And then I had kids. Who made me the runner I am today.
In 2019, I took over as the community coordinator for the Flagstaff chapter of Healthy Kids Running Series (HKRS). HKRS is a nationwide nonprofit that exists in response to the rise in childhood obesity. As a nonprofit, we encourage all to participate and will accommodate accordingly.
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Our mission is “to engage communities and families by providing an inclusive youth running experience, inspiring kids to believe in themselves and lead an active healthy lifestyle.” That bit’s taken directly from the website. I would amend it slightly by adding “for life” to the end.
Have you ever just paused and observed the joyful animations of a child in the wild? Left to their own devices in the outdoors, their ingenuity is breathtaking. When invited to an activity, their enthusiasm is natural and inspiring.
It’s true, at some point in their adolescence they become less malleable. But for a majority of their childhood, the potential for influencing their developing brains to embrace a healthy lifestyle is extraordinary!
I am blessed to see this potential in action twice per year during our races. For five Sundays in the spring and five Sundays in the fall, kids ages 2–14 gather at Flagstaff’s Buffalo Park to run. As the organizer, I endeavor to make each race as fun and inspiring as possible. Truly, it’s not hard with such an enthusiastic audience.
On the final Sunday of each season, parents, siblings and caregivers are invited to run a mile for their kids. With their kids. Young or old, fit or no, they run. And most importantly, they have fun. Where was this organization when I was a kid?
In my day job, I’m a health coach for a weight loss company and a stretch therapist. Most of my work revolves around helping others unravel the distorted thoughts and messages and “diet culture” embedded in their psyche from childhood on. If there’s one message I could shout from the top of Humphreys for all to hear, it would be: Find your joy. Live your joy. And as Olympian Julie Isphording so aptly said, “Never outrun your joy of running.”
Koren Brown is a local wellness professional at Mountain Medicine Integrative Wellness, a mother runner and a passionate advocate for living a healthFULL life at any age.
Send your running news and stories to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds ([email protected]) to be featured in this column.