“How Do I Start Running?” And Other Questions

“Wait, how old are these kids?”

I get asked this question a lot.

Most recently, I was in Stanford, California last week visiting two close friends from college, an extension of our staff trip to visit Students Run L.A. in honor of their 25th anniversary.  My friend, who is an incredibly creative and bright former Division I fencer, had been considering incorporating distance running into her workouts. She had heard about Students Run before, but as I was explaining my new role on staff, her own development of goals around running brought up even more questions about how our students (ages 12-18, by the way) accomplish their goals.

Team Palumbo after their first race of the season, the Generation Run!

Team Palumbo after their first race of the season, the Generation Run!

Then of course there was the second-most popular question:

“And they run MARATHONS?”

My friend, like most people who hear about Students Run, was beyond impressed with who we are and what we do.  But again, like most people, she was still wondering:

How? What gives our students the determination to run 10, 13.1 and 26.2 miles?

Making running a habit takes three things: a plan, a partner, and time. Students Run has these three things built into the very core of its program. Our Running Leaders guide our students through a training plan designed to physically prepare them to run their goal distance. Students are grouped into teams, led by Running Leaders, to provide peer motivation and moral support. They practice three or four times a week, logging the necessary miles during hours spent together.

This spring, during our very first Students Run Philly Style Blue Season, our students have learned, together, that “Every Mile Matters.” Every step they take with their running partners, every hour they spend training, and every mile they run in practice brings them one step closer to achieving their goal. And in these past three months, our students have run many miles. They’ve run three races: Generation Run (3.1 miles), the Blue Cross Broad Street Run (10 miles – the largest 10-mile race in the United States), and the Philadelphia Bar Association 5K (3.1 miles). They’ve run even more miles in practice – at least 150 miles EACH so far in the Blue Season. Some have run even more, and several of our teams keep track of their cumulative miles, tracking their progress by charting a course in miles across the country, and around the world.

Students signed rolls of yellow paper to commit to the Blue Season. At the Broad Street Pasta Party, we added the mantra of "Every Mile Matters."

Students committed to the Blue Season by signing this yellow scroll. At the Broad Street Pasta Party, we added the mantra of “Every Mile Matters.”

Counting the miles is one way to show our students the steps they have taken to reach their goals. What is harder to see on the surface, especially when someone is just starting to run, is that running with Students Run is also about goal-setting, perseverance, self-confidence, and teamwork. When our students learn how to set, work toward, and achieve their goals in running, they learn a skill they can use in any arena – in school, at work, or in their personal lives.

Finishing a race is a great accomplishment. But the hard work it takes to get there is even more impressive. I’d like to think that, like many others, my friend has been inspired by the dedication of our students. She’s working on pinning down a training partner and I’m working on sending her a plan. I know she’ll put the miles behind her one by one, just like all of our student runners.

Which brings me to the third-most popular question:

“And there are how many of them?”

During this year’s Blue Season? 851 amazing, inspiring students and Running Leaders, running all over Philadelphia. That’s a lot of miles.

Lauren Kobylarz
Lauren joined the staff as Program Manager in 2014, after volunteering as a Running Leader for four years. She is a nine-time marathoner and considers her time running with her Students Run team one of her most meaningful life experiences.