The president and founder of Let Me Run (LMR) thinks society is selling boys short—and she’s determined to change that one run at a time. Ashley Armistead’s non-profit, which launched in 2009, has fourth through eighth great boys pounding the pavement while learning to build relationships. The group, which started as an after-school program, can now be found in more than 60 schools in nine states with roughly 1,000 boys using the running and group activities to get on track to success. And with ever-increasing numbers and a summer program launching this year, LMR just keeps growing. To learn more about the “sole to soul” organization, visit www.letmerun.org.
The initial idea for Let Me Run came when I had boys of my own. After becoming a mother and seeing what I had seen in my boys, I was sure that there was something more to being a boy than what society was telling me. What I was seeing didn’t match what I was hearing, and I wanted to fix that. For practically my whole life I had been hearing things like, “Boys will be boys” or “What did you expect? He’s a boy!” But I knew that boys were capable of so much more. They aren’t all ruled by testosterone, or incapable of growing as people. I saw the expectations for boys being lower than they should be, I saw them being sold short, and I knew it shouldn’t have to be that way.
When I was younger, I used running as a go-to problem solver. It relieved stress, helped me deal with my emotions and generally balanced out my life. When I saw the imbalance of society’s stereotypes on young boys, and the power that running had shown me, I had a sense of the direction I wanted to go in. But I still needed credibility; otherwise how would people take me seriously?
To begin, I sought the help of Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, William Pollack. For people to take me seriously, I had to come up with some sort of game plan, a program of some sort, and had to actually know what I was talking about when trying to substantiate my opinion. Some of the things I learned through him were upsetting, like the endless statistics on boys’ declining graduation rates and over-medication. With Pollack’s help, I was beginning to understand the terminology behind what I had been seeing and hearing and before long LMR had begun.
As far as volume is concerned, we started with just around 60 boys and in just three years support has come from far and wide; LMR has expanded to 1,000 boys. Our goal is to be up to 50,000 boys in another five years, and with a little luck we just might do it.
The most important component of LMR is what it means to be an LMR boy. It’s not about the running, it’s about what the running creates: camaraderie, emotional balance, understanding and a healthy lifestyle. It’s about the coexistence of mental, emotional, and physical health. We try to connect boys “sole to soul.” We try to teach them that honesty and trust and positive reinforcement are more valuable than any currency, that real boys show their feelings and aren’t afraid to voice themselves. As the people in the program would say, “Let me be me! Let me reach out! Let me run!”