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Filling the gap.

Ashley Armistead, Founder of Let Me Run, was a Girls On The Run coach in the late 1990’s with two baby boys.

She couldn’t wait for her boys to grow up with a similar opportunity — an after-school running program that offered a safe space, where boys could be themselves, express their fears and dreams, and feel the power of being connected to others through positive, healthy communication.

I have always believed that running develops happier and healthier children. It demands that you bring your best attitude and a positive spirit. Running does not respond to status or appearance, just a big heart and good energy. — Ashley Armistead

But no such program existed for boys. It was up to Ashley to create one, and she knew she wasn’t alone. Too many talented people in Charlotte shared her dream for boys to let this opportunity pass.

Ashley Armistead runs with JeQuan.

Challenging the Boy Code.

Ashley says the Boy Code motivated her to create Let Me Run.

“As a parent it is hard to sit back and watch the ‘Boy Code’ in action. From the ball fields to the office, limiting messages are being sent to males. You’ve heard them: grow up, be a man, suck it up, boys don’t cry, don’t be a sissy, stop being a girl, and always be in control!”

How many times have you heard, “Boys will be boys,” or “Too much testosterone in the room”? Ashley said, “I always seemed shocked by these comments, as I know that my boys far surpass me in their caring actions, integrity, and self-control. I became more aware of societal expectations of boys and of men.”

I kept thinking about my caring, compassionate, and tough boys. Would they be able to stay spirited and full of wonder with these cultural challenges?— Ashley Armistead

Dr. William Pollack, writes about the “Boy Code” in his book Real Boys. As a result of this code, boys develop a “mask of masculinity” to hide their shame, vulnerability and other feelings that they cannot express publicly. The inability to show true emotions hardens a boy until, ultimately, he loses touch with them. Today’s boys, Pollack writes, are “only allowed to lead half their emotional lives.”

The disturbing consequence of this “Boy Code” is that lack of emotional expression can morph into stress, sickness, a decreased learning potential, addiction and even violence. The good news is that if we choose to foster the emotional intelligence of our boys, they will stand a better chance of understanding emotions in others, allowing them to be more successful in relationships.

Dr. William Pollack ON the “Boy Code”

“Today’s boys”, Pollack writes, “are only allowed to lead half their emotional lives.”

Researching the facts.

Male infants are actually more emotionally expressive than female babies.

But due to the toughening up process of boys by age 5 or 6, boys are less likely to express fear, despair, hurt, and vulnerability. The truth is that testosterone is present in roughly the same amounts in boys and girls until around age 10. After that, testosterone is the consequence of male competition rather than the cause. Boys are as much the product of nurture as nature.

We also know that running prevents and treats chronic illness including diabetes, cancer, obesity, and heart disease. Regular aerobic exercise increases the rate of learning and the capacity for memory, increasing academic performance. Plus, running increases dopamine, which decreases depression, fights addiction, and improves focus. What could be a better way to nurture growing boys?

One of the first LMR practices.

Creating the program.

Ashley held a town hall meeting with local educators, coaches, physicians, and businessmen to determine the challenges males face and build a running program, tailored specifically for boys.

Priorities for a boy’s program:

  • Put an emphasis on cardiovascular fitness and total body strength.
  • Re-define winning. (Winning can be losing the game, but having a player score his first goal.)
  • Re-define success. (Help boys realize that they are more than the sum of their accomplishments or the accumulation of things. Boys can choose to be successful everyday according to how they live their lives.)
  • Teach boys to discover their own strengths and recognize strengths in others.
  • Give boys an opportunity to practice empathy and celebrate the success of others.
  • Provide coaching and practice to help natural leaders think in terms of bringing a group together instead of beating the group.
  • Push boys out of their comfort zone and help them find a sense of responsibility in the group.
  • Let boys know it’s OK to express fears and fail.
  • Teach boys to create success through multiple initiatives and team-building activities.
  • Help boys feel success, hear a lot of positive comments and be validated.
  • Build relationships with positive role models, which impact more than curriculum.
  • Use the media to find everyday heroes and inspiration.
  • Help demonstrate and create a broader definition of masculinity.

Let Me Run - Original Logo.

Running Let Me Run.

We’re proud that our first after-school club was in the Spring of 2008, we became incorporated in March 2009, and we became a 501(c)(3) in July of 2009.

Let Me Run is an effort to support our boys growing into their full potential — bodies, hearts, and souls, through the soles of their running shoes. So as we grow, we’ll continue to re-evaluate and change our lessons according to the current challenges boys face in leading both emotionally and physically active lives.

This is about people willing to share good energy to make a difference in our future. This is about caring and brilliant people willing to guide children to a place of safety, integrity, acceptance, and love. This program is possible due to many volunteer coaches willing to take time out of their day to make the world a better place for boys. — Ashley Armistead

Preparing Boys for the Long Run

Giving thanks to the forerunners.

Many thanks to our founding board: Lori Klingman, Kirsten Wrinkle, Beth Collins, Toni Branner, Kristen Danusis, Sue Gorman, Joanne Stratton Tate, Janie Cook, and John Sullivan.

Many thanks to Randy Phillips, Andrea Chomakos, Brad Van Hoy, and Michael Barker who have helped us navigate the legal waters of being a 501(c)(3).

Many thanks to our early board members who joined the team soon after we incorporated and gained our 501(c)(3) status: Paul Martino, Drew Quartapella, Todd Capitano, Dan Janick, and Leonard Wheeler.

Many thanks to my husband and boys for sacrificing time and resources so that we can find out what it really means to be a boy.— Ashley Armistead