By Jean Knaack
While there are many great aspects to running, two stand out to me as especially important to embrace if the running community is to continue growing. First, running is a generational activity—you can run through- out your life. Second, running has always been an affordable and accessible activity that most people can participate in throughout the course of the year—and it should stay that way.
Stories are shared and celebrated on social media when a 90-year-old runner earns a world age-group record at a race. Youth running programs at schools and after school programs continue to grow and flourish. Clubs that engage a diverse group of runners continue to form and grow.
In this issue’s feature article, we outline strategies to manage running through the parenting years, from having infants in tow (or rather, pushing), to juggling your running schedule with your pre- to young teen’s activities. Being a running mom with a running husband, we’ve managed our training schedules through each phase of our children’s lives by being flexible and, at times, downright creative in order to squeeze in some quality miles.
While you may not race as much during your parenting years compared to the pre-baby and post-teen years, finding races to run with your kids (1-mile street races, 5K runs, etc.) or volunteering with a school-run club will help instill a love of running in the next generation. Running through the parenting years will hopefully ensure you stick with it in the empty-nest phase to follow.
Recently, the RRCA posted a comment on Twitter about selecting races that don’t price gouge and we provided an average entry fee to shoot for. I was surprised at the negative reaction to the notion that races should be affordable and that people should seek them out. Since when did running become a luxury brand, accessible to a few as opposed the many?
When we look at event participation by the under-40 crowd (those millennials whom The Wall Street Journal blamed for “killing the running boom”), we should ask ourselves: Are we creating a community that’s affordable and accessible for people with young families or even families with older children/teens, for that matter?
Of course costs are rising, from permitting, to police support, to clean-up crews, to others seeking a cut in race proceeds at some point during the event’s life cycle. However, community-based events and clubs can engage young adult runners now and into the future by providing well-organized events at an affordable rate to help keep these runners engaged in the sport through middle-age and beyond at the levels we’ve seen in recent years.