“Well over 100 athletes participate in the SJA summer running program. Some have never tried distance running before. There are a good number of reasons why so many athletes and their parents find the program to be beneficial.”

By Coach Rob Harber

The first day of each summer marks the beginning of the SJA summer running program. Monday through Friday of each week from the first day of the summer until the last, young runners from grade school age to those currently competing in college have the opportunity to come together each day and share an activity that they love.

Well over 100 athletes participate in the SJA summer running program. Some have never tried distance running before. There are a good number of reasons why so many athletes and their parents find the program to be beneficial. Those benefits include accountability, a promotion of a positive self-image, health benefits, a sense of belonging within a community of friends, and positive role models.

Immediate positive actions set the tone for each great day. One of St. James Academy’s daily summer running sessions begin at 7:00 AM. It’s wonderful to end each morning running session with the knowledge that the daily run is complete and an exciting day full of possibilities is ahead! For some, summer can quickly evolve into sleeping too late and general lethargy, which is never a good thing. Positive peer pressure is an important aspect of the SJA summer running program. Each athlete knows that their friends and peers will be there each day, working to improve. And those friends and peers will expect them to be present and to be doing the same. That’s great motivation for taking that first step out of bed!

As an option, there’s also an evening session at 6:30 PM. Having morning and evening options accommodates busy summer schedules. Work or other requirements may preclude participation in the morning session, but there is still the opportunity to come together in the evening. As the morning run is the perfect beginning to a positive day, the evening session is the perfect end, and will enhance a good night of sleep.

A key element of obtaining a positive self-image is the absolute knowledge that one is working diligently to improve. Running, in general, is an excellent activity for building a positive self-image. One reason why is that improvement is personal and measured individually. Those new to running and those with extensive experience are exactly the same in that both will work toward, measure, and achieve improvement. For the new participant, the initial goal for the summer may be to complete a mile run without stopping to walk. For the experienced, the initial goal for the summer may be to complete a 13-mile long run at the correct pace, not too fast or too slow. During a recent memorable summer a young athlete, an incoming freshman, worked toward running nonstop to the top of a hill near the end of her run each evening. She worked to achieve this goal daily through the first half of the summer, inching closer and closer to reaching her goal each day. On a glorious evening in mid-July, she did achieve her goal. And from there her improvement was amazing! She went on to have an incredible freshman cross country season where she astonished those that had known her in grade school. She exceeded everyone’s expectations, even her own expectations for herself!

As a general rule, the more that an activity is practiced, the more it is perfected. Running definitely follows this rule. In the SJA summer running program, we promote running as a lifestyle. Running is an activity that can and should be practiced each day throughout life. And the reasons why are clear and well documented. Daily aerobic exercise is key to good health. And if one remains in good health they will have energy and the ability to impact the world in a positive way. The SJA summer running program includes a mileage program. Shirts are awarded at the end of each summer recognizing the lifetime mileage achieved by each participant. Athletes new to the program often reach 100 miles of running during their first summer. Those that have been participating for many years often have accumulated thousands of miles, and those totals are proudly displayed on their shirts. The shirts have the following printed on the back, “It’s not just a sport, It’s a lifestyle”. Our most important goal of all of our athletes is a lifetime of running and great health.

Running promotes a strong community bond. Runners that train together spend hours each day in the presence of friends with nothing to do but run and communicate. There are no phones. There is no video. Just God’s great outdoors and friends, mile after mile. By the end of each summer, our athletes know each other very well! Discussions while running are wide-ranging and pretty much continuous. Bonds are created and those bonds last. Running is a fantastic shared experience. Athletes share the easy and fun training activities and the painful and difficult training. They run together in good weather and bad. They come through each episode of the summer together and the support and appreciation from others and toward others is unmistakable. Those entering high school for the first time begin their academic careers with a large number for close friends, made during the summer. We often see such friendships thrive throughout high school and persist during and beyond of our cross country season.

The SJA summer running program includes an outstanding and experienced adult staff. Adult coaches explain and manage the daily training routines, keep the athletes safe, and provide for their hydration and nutritional (Popsicle) needs. However, the most important role models for our summer athletes are their upper-class leaders, the incoming seniors of the cross country team. These young people are truly the best of the best: outstanding students, leaders within the school, young people dedicated to serving others. These leaders work hard to welcome each athlete each day by name. They use experience to provide thoughtful advice to our younger athletes. They model exactly how one should strive for personal goals, become a leader, and work to be one’s very best each day. It is sometimes difficult for young people to know exactly what actions are necessary to be their best self. When peer leaders demonstrate such actions each day, those who are younger are encouraged to emulate those actions. Then, they become the same positive leaders when they reach their senior year of high school!

Consider joining us for a run. The benefits are endless!

Click here, to register for the summer running program.

By Coach Rob Harber
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