On your mark, get set, GO! It’s marathon time, which means Bostonians have running on the brain. Aspiring runners don’t need to be adults to learn to run like Desi Linden or Meb Keflezighi. Seven local running clubs for children will help kids learn to run or train to be the track stars of the future. Whether or not your kid is Olympics-bound, these clubs also promote sportsmanship, friendship, fitness, and self-confidence—which are worth just as much as a medal.
Based in Charlestown, Town Track Club Junior Olympics Program is a track and field and cross country club for kids ages 5-18, open to youth of all ability levels in the greater Boston area. Town Track Club has no tryouts or cuts and is focused on teaching running as a lifelong pursuit. Kids compete in the USATF Junior Olympics and local meets. Their fall X-Country program begins in September and ends in mid-December, and their spring/summer track season starts in April and ends at the end of July.
The Needham Track Club helps kids aged 3.5 to 14 learn the essentials of track and field while having a great time. The Club is super-inclusive, welcoming runners with physical, mental, or emotional challenges. Needham Track Club offers summer track, cross country, and winter track. For the competitive runner, The Club hosts multiple indoor and outdoor meets, as well as road races.
Almost 35,000 kids have participated in Boston Athletic Association programs in the past 20 years, learning to run with the organization that founded the Boston Marathon. The B.A.A. offers the B.A.A. Relay Challenge, the B.A.A. Invitational Scholastic Mile and Middle School 1K, 10K Youth and Half Marathon Youth races, and the Boston Middle School Cross Country Championship as well as the Mayor’s Cup Cross Country Youth Races.
Girls on the Run is designed to inspire girls in third to eighth grades to dig deep and realize their potential. Coaches lead small teams in 37 Boston locations through research-based curricula that includes discussions, activities, and running games. At the end of the 10-week program, girls participate in a service project and run a celebratory 5K.
The Cambridge Jets were established in 1987 by husband and wife team Curtis and Kimberly Jackman. A well-known institution in Cambridge, the Jets have affiliations with Harvard, MIT, Tufts and others, allowing them to compete at their facilities. Jets runners have run for the AAU and USATF Junior Olympics and continue to compete at the collegiate level. The team competes in 4 to 8 meets per season, with the majority nearby, but also traveling to state, regional and national meets.
Emerging Elites offers year-round training programs for competitive athletes in eastern Massachusetts. Emerging Elites athletes have won 9 NCAA championships and earned multiple All-American and Academic All-American awards. Two Emerging Elites have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and one won a spot in the Rio Olympics. The Emerging Elites summer program accepts middle school, junior varsity, and varsity athletes for eight weeks of training between June 26 and August 19 at Pine Manor College in Brookline. The spring program is designed to provide athletes with the opportunity to train with peers from public, private, and prep schools, racing at several outdoor track meets and invitationals throughout the spring. The program trains sprinters, middle distance, and distance runners, as well as athletes who play soccer, lacrosse, squash and field hockey.
The Kids Road Races in Brockton are open to all kids 14 and under, competing in a 2.2 mile loop at D.W. Field. The 8-week season begins on April 29 and costs $1 per week. Runners who compete in five or more races will receive a t-shirt and a trophy, and ribbons will be awarded each week to the top five runners in each of the 10 divisions. At the end of the season, the highest performer will win a pair of New Balance running shoes.
Image provided by Girls on the Run.