Teen promotes fitness through running club
Hannah Lombardo, 13, warms up with members of her neighborhood running club Monday.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Hannah Lombardo has been pounding the pavement as a runner next to her father, Col. Gregg Lombardo, since kindergarten.

Now 13 years old, Hannah introduces others to the sport through the weekly running club she created that meets at her home.

"Running does so much for me," said Hannah, a seventh grader who is active in soccer and other academic ventures. "It helps me with my stress. I made this club because I wanted to share that feeling with other people."

The group, which varies in size from four to 20 people, includes children in first to seventh grade. Runners track specific milestones - running faster or farther, cross-training for other sports or even just getting outside for activity at all.

"We have an open-door policy," Molly Lombardo, Hannah's mother, said. "We just ask you to give us one lap running, and then you can skateboard, bike, walk, skip - whatever you want. We just want you to keep moving."

Each runner has the opportunity to lead warm-ups before a run and post-run cool downs.

The Lombardos also incorporate nutritional information into each run to help children understand the relationship between physical activity and eating properly.

The club meets four days a week. Regardless of personal goals, each day has a specific format: Mondays and Thursdays are "push" days with harder runs; Tuesdays are easy days and Wednesdays are miscellaneous days used to work on whatever suits the runner's needs - perhaps intervals or running a longer distance at a slower pace.

Aldon Wendt, 13, said his initial goal was to run two laps nonstop. He's been able to do that and more, and just logged 90 miles since the club began in February.

Another perk is the chance to meet new people.

"It's been good," Wendt said. "I've made lots of new friends here and get to have fun with them."
Eleven-year-old Jack Hummel said he has also worked to improve his skills.

"I can run faster and longer," he said. "It's really helped me build my stamina."

Molly has seen the work pay off in other ways as well. Those who have made the commitment each week to run have not only improved their physical well-being, but also their overall attitudes.
"We teach the kids about goal setting as a way to get them where they want to be with their running," Molly said. "Those are life lessons, too.

"There are no negatives with this," she added. "This kind of thing just builds upon itself. It's a win-win-win for everyone."

Both mother and daughter want to see big things for the group. Hannah hopes her fellow runners will maintain their goals and continue to build on them, while Molly would love the program to expand.

"This is a model for every neighborhood," Molly said. "You can do this anywhere, and it's easy to make it work. You just need to have a parent who's involved and wants to make it work."

For Hannah, it still comes down to being involved in what she loves.

"When I run, everything with school, stress and life just seems so much better," she said. "It makes me feel good about everything. If you can run like this, you really can do anything."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16