"Run Hard" Getting Midlands Kids Active

11:24 PM, Jan 17, 2014   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A program called "Run Hard" is making waves in the way kids and families think about running. It even has one entire family changing the way they look at exercise.

It's just two years old and already hundreds have participated.

This past fall, nearly 500 kids at 19 different schools participated, and going into its fifth season, it's already changing lives.

That's what you'd notice taking a run with Josh Williams as he trains for the Columbia Marathon that is set for March.

Josh Williams is running to build up stamina for the grueling 26.2 mile race, and he's just 10-years-old.

"It's good for you," Josh said. "It's good exercise."

But running wasn't always something he was into. One day, his mother Tanya Williams, said he came home from school with a flyer encouraging him to try "Run Hard," a program training kids in character development through running. 

His mother said he hasn't been the same since.

"He's got this group of people that don't want him to be anything (other) than what he is," Tanya Williams said. "They just want him to give his best."

His best has gotten him medals for finishing two separate 5k races, and even got his sister, Sarah, to start running with her female classmates.

She is also training for the Columbia Marathon, and is just 8-years-old. She said she is using the opportunity to discover more about herself each day.

"Usually I act like a girly-girl most of the time, so I can act like I'm one of the boys and I can actually run and get dirty," Sarah said.

"Run Hard" Director Jesse Harmon quit his job as a youth pastor to start the program after noticing what he calls a need among children.

Harmon said he came up with the idea after noticing that there was a shortage of after school programs for boys.

The goal for the program, Harmon said, is to implement character values through directed lesson plans.

This past fall, Harmon said he gave away 39 scholarships to family's who could not afford the $85 participation fee.

"Once you begin to see the results, and you begin to see the life change in these young men and in the families, you can't help but to be even more inspired," Harmon said. 

For the Williams family, the experience has been so great that even little brother Justin, 6, can't wait for second grade this fall so he will finally be able to participate himself.

Harmon is hoping to expand the program to more schools this fall.

Right now, the "Run Hard" program is only open to young men, but a pilot program will test the success of opening it to both boys and girls.

If you're looking to get your kids involved, you can visit runhard.org. 

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