This is another one of those weeks where I struggled to figure out what I’m going to say here. I have lots of ideas of things that I want to write about, but some weeks none of my ideas seem appropriate. Like many parents, I am shaken by another school shooting. 29 mass shootings so far this year, the 18th at a school. I ran hard yesterday morning. Running relieves stress.
“Not just exercise, but a way to get in touch with and reclaim myself in an often fragmenting world, running also serves as a powerful antidote to clinical depression, a metaphor for the creative process, and, in its most profound moments, a spiritual practice.” – Poet Alison Townsend
I am a coach for Let Me Run. We are getting ready for the spring season which starts in mid-March. I first wrote about my involvement last year, in “Let Me Be Me.” While the program is the boys equivalent to Girls on the Run, it’s something more. Founder Ashley Armistead worked with Dr. William Pollack in developing the curriculum for the program. In his book, Real Boys, Dr. Pollack discusses “the boy code” the results of which are boys developing a “mask of masculinity” to hide their shame, vulnerability and other feelings that they cannot express publicly. This lack of emotional expression can morph into stress, sickness, a decreased learning potential, addiction and even violence (from LetMeRun.org).
Let Me Run has “a comprehensive curriculum that applies the power of running and encourages boys to develop their psychological, emotional and social health, in addition to their physical health.” An evaluation of the program by the University of North Carolina, showed that the program “significantly improves boys’ attitudes and behaviors associated with healthy masculinity, increases vigorous physical activity levels, improves social competence, and reduces screen time on school days.” All things that contribute to better mental health.
I volunteered last year to coach Let Me Run because my friend needed another coach in order to start the program in our northern New Jersey community. I did it because I wanted to get more experience as a coach. I have stayed involved – and will continue to stay involved – because I now fully understand it’s valuable mission. After I lost my husband to suicide (and my daughter lost her dad) in 2014, I realized that when we empower girls we are only doing half the job. We need to give our boys the tools they need to be the friends, partners and fathers our girls deserve. Now I’m starting to realize it goes even deeper than that.
Dr. Pollack and others contributed to a documentary The Mask You Live In (which is available on Netflix). It was discussed in the Let Me Run coach’s trainings I’ve attended. I chose Wednesday night to watch it. I kept thinking about how most mass shootings are carried out by males (of the 95 mass shootings between 1982-2017, 92 were initiated by males). Significantly more men than women die by suicide, and men are more often than not the perpetrators of most other violent crimes (Statista.com).
So we need to do a better job raising boys. I hope through my involvement with Let Me Run that I can have a positive affect on this next generation. Some cities where boys may be most at risk are also the places without stay-at-home and work-from-home parents who can volunteer to coach and some of those families can’t afford the cost of the program. So in order to assure that those boys have an opportunity to participate, I‘ve decided that Let Me Run will be my charity for the New Jersey Marathon in April (more on that to come).
I am also going to continue to be an advocate for mental health. We need to do a better job providing services (affordable and easily accessible) to help everyone deal with emotional issues. And that said, it still comes down to gun sense, so I will put my money where my mouth is there too. We need to keep our children safe. I will continue to give my monthly donation to Moms Demand Action, reach out to my elected officials so they know where I stand, and vote for politicians willing to do more than think and pray.
This week in Marathon Training