Run Hard program gets boys moving, learning

jholleman@thestate.comMarch 5, 2014 

Jesse Harmon yells out encouraging words during a Run Hard Columbia practice for elementary school boys at Ballentine Elementary School in Irmo, Monday, March 3, 2014.

GERRY MELENDEZ — Gerry Melendez

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    To get details about the Run Hard Running Team, go to runhard.org.

— Seventeen boys ran around the bus loop at Ballentine Elementary School on Monday after school, bounding along the asphalt with carefree, youthful joy.

When they finished the one-hour session with a couple of relay races, Run Hard Running Team founder Jesse Harmon gathered them on the sidewalk to talk again about teamwork. This is the first session for most of them, but they already know the chant.

“What do we do?” Harmon asks.

“Build up!” the boys scream.

“We don’t?” Harmon says.

“Tear down!” the boys respond.

The scene is what the Run Hard Running Team is all about – teaching life lessons while teaching boys that running can be fun.

When hundreds of adults take off Saturday morning in the Run Hard Columbia Marathon, they will be helping ensure more young boys will be primed to follow in their footsteps. Proceeds from the marathon will go to fund scholarships for families who can’t afford the $85 Run Hard after school program fee.

Harmon started Run Hard in 2012 with an eight-week program each semester in two schools. This spring, Run Hard is working with boys in 25 elementary and middle schools in Lexington 1 and 2 and Richland-Lexington 5 school districts. (There’s a similar program for elementary school girls called Girls on the Run.)

“Running has taught me so much about life, and I thought ‘Let’s do that for these boys,’ ” Harmon said. “I want to do more than just get them out there and running and burning energy. We meet twice a week and teach them a lesson each session.”

From teamwork to work ethic, the boys will learn about life skills. But mostly, they’ll run. At the end of each eight-week session, participants run in a 5K race.

Joan Necastro said her son Neal, a fourth-grader at Ballentine, got involved in Run Hard because some friends did. Now, she couldn’t keep him away from the sessions if she tried. “He loves to run,” she said. “He ran the 5K (at the end of the fall session) and wanted to brag about it.”

Neal has reason to brag, doing the 5K in 211/2 minutes. Jeannette Farr, assistant director of Run Hard, said she couldn’t keep up with Neal at the race.

Neal and fifth-grader Logan Garrett play soccer. But the training during Run Hard sessions has led to significant increases in the boys’ endurance and speed, according to their mothers.

Jeanne Garrett and Joan Necastro were so impressed with the program they volunteered as assistant coaches this spring.

“I started running because my son was in Run Hard,” Necastro said. “He needed a running buddy.”

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