Run with It: Taking Your Programs to the Streets (or Trails)

Creating a physical literacy program at your library doesn’t always have to happen under your roof. Take to the streets (or trails)! Are you already an avid runner or walker? Share your enthusiam. Would you like to be? Get motivated with some helpful volunteers.

How about starting a weekly run or walk club at your branch? Every week (or month, whatever works for your patrons) set a time when you will gather at the library and set off on a walk or jog around the block or neighborhood park. Follow the walk/jog with some light stretching and regroup at the library. Here are some ideas and tips to get you started:

Author's son at Legs for Literacy 2014
  • It doesn't have to be marathon training; set the pace and distance based on the current skill set of your participants. If their skill levels vary, consider teaming up with another program leader and breaking into two groups.  
  • Walking doesn't have to be boring. Try a theme and bring in an expert. Bring along a local history buff to point out fascinating architecture and local lore. Invite a nature enthusiast to talk about flora and flauna. Have your resident birder point out special species along the path. How about a treasure hunt for the kids? 
  • Itching to get your heart rate up or help patrons with their weight loss goals? Bring in a personal trainer or coach (your local sports shop, running club or university kinesiology department are good places to look for volunteers). Put your patrons in someone else’s good hands! This is especially helpful if you are a lone librarian and can’t leave the building. Many libraries are starting their own Couch-to-5K programs, where beginner runners meet once a week to train for their first 5K together in a supportive atmosphere. As one librarian told me, "I did a C2K program at my previous library a couple times. Got a grant to pay a babysitter so parents could participate. Loved the excuse to run on the clock!"
  • Want something a little more competitive and/or ambitious? We runners are notoriously type A. How about working with your board or foundation to organize a library fun run fundraiser? You never know how many miles you may log and how popular the event might become. The Love Your Library 5K, Bolt for Books 5K, Brooksville Library 5K, Literacy Half-Marathon and 10K Walk/Run and Legs for Literacy (an annual event for my family; see my eldest son, above, proudly showing off last year's finisher medal) are just a few of the many fundraisers happening around the continent in support of libraries and reading.
  • Get families involved. Have a Saturday group hike or run with all ages and abilities. Let the kids set the pace. End at the nearest playground or back at the library for storytime.  
  • Motivate moms! As the mother of two young boys, it wasn't that long ago that I can remember feeling trapped in the house with a wee one (or two) and being desperate for adult interaction and post-partum weight loss. Host a stroller jog or walk for caregivers and babies. The social time will be just as important as the exercise. 
Author and son at Run or Dye in 2014
  • Depending on the day’s weather, you may need to have an alternative location (an indoor track or shopping mall) or an extra supply of umbrellas or mittens. Sometimes, if the weather is really horrid (like it is here in New Brunswick in January), you may just have to call it a loss and meet for hot chocolate or cider instead (if your doors are still open). 
  • Afterwards everyone can come back to the library for refreshments, a stretch and to check out the rotating display on this week’s theme (birds, flowers, local history, transportation, running manuals, inspirational movies or music, etc.).  

So get out there and get moving! I can't wait to hear all about your run/walk programs in the comments section below.