February 21 2018
Jim Weber addresses comments he made earlier this year about "real" runners in an exclusive interview.
Let Me Run is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit gathers elementary- and middle school-aged boys (fourth through eighth graders, to be exact) and teaches them the importance of health and wellness through running. The program also strives to confront male stereotypes by encouraging its participants to exercise sincerity and, above all, to be themselves.
The program seems to be working. In April, the Institute to Promote Athlete Health and Wellness at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro published the results of a program evaluation conducted during Let Me Run’s spring and fall 2016 seasons. During that time, Let Me Run’s primary goals—to improve behavior and social skills, boost physical activity and reduce sedentary activities like watching TV and playing video games—appeared to have been reached, with its coaches stating that the program was a valuable fitness match for boys within its designated age group.
So what does this actually mean? Gender stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in our culture that they can seem impossible to permeate. Existing gender stereotypes—for males and females—are reinforced hundreds of times on any given day, often without us realizing what’s happening. But gender performance kicks into high gear during high school. Since Let Me Run targets boys before they start high school, maybe it’s possible to provide them with new perspectives before they get there. As Let Me Run Founder Ashley Armistead explained, “Let Me Run gives boys permission to be compassionate, confident human beings with a full set of emotions.”
By providing athletic social outings twice each week during its two seven-week seasons each year, Let Me Run also encourages new friendships to bloom amongst participants. This is especially important to the widespread loneliness epidemic of modern times, which affects children and adults of all ages in spite of the online communities grown on social media. With active- and outdoor-focused programs like Let Me Run, kids are encouraged to take a chance on the outside world, interact with new people and cultivate talents or passions they might not have discovered otherwise.
Let Me Run was launched in Charlotte, N.C., in 2009 and now boasts hundreds of teams across North America. More than 17,000 boys are involved in the program nationwide.