Young runners learn self-confidence with 5K

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In the beginning of June, more than 100 young runners will hit the pavement with confidence in the third annual Let Me Run 5k in Hopewell.

The race is designed to be the finale of a seven-week training program. During the seven weeks, young boys learn how to run and instill self-confidence in themselves.

“We have over 120 boys who participate in our program in the area. We have teams in Hopewell, Pennington, Lawrence and Princeton,” said Laura Smelas-Jackson, Let Me Run Central NJ Regional Director. “All those boys will come to the race plus their coaches. We also encourage community members to participate as well. There will be more than 200 runners on the day.”

Beginning at 8:15 a.m., the three-mile race will take place on 35 Princeton Ave. at Hopewell Elementary School on June 1.

The race is part of a national organization called Let Me Run, which is a non-profit based in Charoltte, N.C.

The organization’s seven-week program is designed to inspire boys to be themselves, be active, and belong, according to Smelas-Jackson.

There is a comprehensive curriculum that applies the power of running, which encourages boys to develop their psychological, emotional and social health, in addition to their physical health, according to non-profit officials.

Officials said twice a week for seven weeks, two trained volunteer coaches lead an elementary or middle school team through practice designed to amplify confidence, self-expression, and respect for others.

“The race is the culmination of the weekly program. Over that time, we do appropriate grade level social and emotional lessons,” she said. “For example teaching how to be a friend, set goals, how to deal with anger and emotion, while at the same time training for a 5k. They will run different distances to prepare for the race.”

Smelas-Jackson said the race is a celebration for the boys.

“This race is a combination of self-confidence for themselves and working as a team to cross the finish line,” she said. “It is a celebration of all of their effort and everything they have done for the past seven weeks. When you are at the finish line you see the tears from those young boys accomplishing their end goal.”

Smelas-Jackson said it has been important for her see the boys grasp the tools presented to them throughout the program.

“It is great to know we are helping to prepare them for the next stages in life,” she said.

For more information about the Central NJ Regional Let Me Run program, visit www.letmerun.org/region/central-nj.