WILMINGTON — In an era where IPads, video games and cell phones saturate the minds of youth and dominate their free time instead of playing outside in the neighborhood the national initiative Kids Run the Nation (KRTN) is gaining popularity in the area.
KRTN is a gender inclusive, multi-week, youth running program designed to meet the physical activity goals outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.
This January, KRTN will begin its winter session, encouraging and challenging young athletes to set and achieve goals.
Each practice will be held on the campus of UNC-Wilmington. The one hour workout combines “education” (drills & form), strength work, running and other games focused on exercise.
“KRTN began four years ago this month,” said Billy Block, director of Kids Run the Nation Wilmington. “We held our first few sessions at Holly Tree Elementary School before moving to the UNCW track. Our goal was to bring a fun and affordable running program to young athletes ages 5-12. While there were many programs for older kids and adults, there was very little available for younger kids.”
The love of running across the Wilmington community is seen in many different ways. From the annual Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon to the dozens of 5K and 10K races held throughout the year, running has become a staple in Wilmington’s backyard. The growth and support of KRTN in Wilmington has grown in leaps and bounds thanks to groups like the Wilmington Road Runners Club.
“We’re fortunate to have some of area’s best, most experienced athletes as coaches,” Block added. “And we also have an incredible group of volunteers from the Hoggard High School Cross-County Team. Their work helps us bring our love of running as a sport to young athletes.”
While challenging young athletes to be active through running helps develop a passion and foundation, many participants see improvements in other sports they play. This top level instruction helps youngsters gain a better idea of the proper techniques to help achieve goals in different levels of competition.
“We explain how movement and running are the foundation of all other sports,” Block said. “Many of our athletes improve dramatically in soccer, tennis, basketball, while taking part in KRTN. Another key element of KRTN is fun. We incorporate challenging running games into every practice. But, while we have fun, we also promote healthy competition with others and within through a series of timed events and races.”
Over the last four years KRTN has steadily grown. The Wilmington-based program holds three regular, 10-week sessions (fall, winter and spring — – and a five day summer clinic). Last fall, 60 young athletes –the group’s biggest session – registered to run the 10-week program.