The 13 students who participated in the most recent Louie’s Kids Run Buddies program might never have thought they could make it 6.2 miles over the Ravenel Bridge along with 40,000 adults, serious runners and elites. But more than three months of twice-weekly training sessions got them more than ready to accomplish the ultimate Charleston-area fitness challenge.

Run Buddies started as a one-on-one running program. One run coach would mentor one middle-school aged participant over the course of 12-16 weeks. The program has evolved into a group of volunteers and young runners. Louie’s Kids holds one or two sessions each year in partnerships with middle schools around Charleston. The most recent program leading up to the bridge run met at Mount Pleasant Recreation Center and included 12 East Cooper Montessori School students and one from Lange Middle School.

“My favorite part was watching myself get better,” said participant Lexi who joined Run Buddies because she already enjoyed running.

Students enjoyed fun, social physical activity outside while making friends, improving their fitness and working toward a collective goal. “I joined because I wanted to lose weight, feel better about myself and make it easier for the future,” participant Sam said. “My favorite part was that I accomplished my goal.”

Sessions started after school, with a snack and water, time to change, a spring/jog/run, and stretch session. Then runners broke up into groups on three tracks clustered by speed. Run buddies ran different routes around the rec center and I’On at different paces, some working up from walks to runs.

Louie’s Kids Director of Programs Deanna Smith has seen participants discover an ongoing love for running. One Run Buddy even came back this year after participating in a 2013 5K Run Buddies program. Another student used to find his only physical outlet in karate and had never run before. “He’s been so determined and setting goals. He’s fallen in love with running, it’s great to see,” Smith said.

Louie’s Kids is looking to start the next Run Buddies program in the fall of 2014.  A school needs to have at least 12-15 children interested and at least one faculty member who can commit to helping out. Contact us to see how you could bring Run Buddies to your child’s school.