Family running

John F. Kennedy in 1961 Conference of Physical Fitness and Youth stated this memorable quote: “We do not want in the United States a nation of spectators. We want a nation of participants in the vigorous life. This is not a matter which can be settled, of course, from Washington.  It is really a matter which starts with each individual family…”

In the spirit of family oriented outdoor play, camaraderie, fitness for all ages, and rediscovering the effortless movement of children- the Air Force Marathon encourages you to join the spirit of “family” running.  As a citizen or a soldier your “family” might be your spouse and kids, or your dorm mates, co workers, or others who you have another connection or no connection with.

The idea of all inclusive family “jogs” was first born in New Zealand under the legendary coach and mentor Author Lydiard (  He started the Auckland Joggers Club in the 1950’s mostly out of a desire to rehab heart attack victims (a wildly controversial concept at the time, now a standard of care).  His Sunday morning gatherings of young, old, walkers, joggers, and a few serious runners became a weekly party.  If you visit New Zealand today similar groups gather in small towns throughout the country, and the health of the nation benefits in the active social play.  Each town becomes its own family of outdoor enthusiasts.

In 1962 the legendary University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman traveled to New Zealand to observe Lydiard’s coaching technique for Olympic level athletes.  What Bill really discovered though was the jogging movement of the citizens and came home to pen a 60 page pamphlet called “Jogging”, which quickly became a bestseller.  A new word and lifestyle was born.  Bill himself could barely cover a half mile the first day, but after several months of easy running he was 30 pounds lighter, renewed, and could jog for miles.  He began hosting Friday evening jogs in Eugene.  First a few gathered but soon hundreds appeared at the U of O track to head out on the local routes.  Eugene is now recognized around the world for its trails, recreation, and community health.  Bowerman started the culture change with the Friday jogs and expressed to the citizens “if you have a body you are an athlete”.  Eugene is now a big running family.

So how do you develop your own family of runners and walkers?  It’s pretty simple…just bring your immediate family and if you want invite some others. Folks can cover whatever ground they can comfortably by whatever means they can.  Here is a video of one of our family fun runs in West Virginia (kids on bikes, strollers all OK) and another family fun run video with “Born to Run” author Chris McDougall.  I jog while my children ages 5 and 7 alternate riding their bikes and jogging.  Do something different each week and keep it fresh and fun.

Some nice family fitness and nutrition tools and plans can be found here and here. Also check out the newly launched   and NEEF Children and Nature initiatives.

Happy trails


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