Celebrating 20 Years of Free Youth Running

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Our commitment to free running for kids began in January 1999 in an after-school program at the public school in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Twenty years later, our youth commitment has grown to serve 250,000 students ages 2-18 in all five boroughs and across the nation.

Today, our Rising New York Road Runners youth program and events platform is built to develop movement skills in kids through a mix of running and fitness activities. The program is designed to help kids build their confidence, their motivation, and their desire to be physically active for life.

As we remain committed to getting more kids moving, the next 20 years will have an even bigger impact, with the goal of doubling our impact to serve half a million kids by 2023.

Here's a look at how our youth programs have grown from that first school in Brooklyn.

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New York Road Runners Foundation Hosts Its First Youth Practice
New York Road Runners Foundation launches to give back to the community; the focus is on youth due to the lack of middle school sports and P.E. programs in NYC schools. The first school was in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and then by the end of 1999 10 NYC schools were enrolled.

Grete Waitz serves as the first chairwoman of the New York Road Runners Foundation.

First Run with Champions
This fun event, held during New York City Marathon week, has NYC schoolkids running with professional athletes and celebrities. Now in its 20th year, the TCS Run with Champions features nearly 1,000 youth.


NYRR Team for Kids Starts
In its first year, 135 Team for Kids runners raise nearly $180,000 to support the New York Road Runners Foundation.

Since that first year, Team for Kids has grown exponentially, and runners have raised over $75 million to support NYRR’s youth programs.

Find out more about NYRR Team for Kids.

New York Road Runners Foundation Growth
The Foundation receives New York City Department of Youth and Community Development funding, leading to substantial growth. Other significant grants follow from the Carol M. White PEP, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, leading to continued growth.

Youth runners in the early days of NYRR youth programs


Mighty Milers Launch
The youth program grows exponentially with a new approach.

Mighty Milers quickly became the flagship program with the goal being for every student to run at least a total of 26.2 miles (a marathon) over the course of the school year.

First Jamboree
NYRR Foundation welcomes over 1,200 kids and 300 parents for the first annual Youth Jamboree, a collaborative event produced by NYRRF, the Armory, and the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian. Since 2004, dozens of Jamborees have been held serving tens of thousands of kids collectively.

Summer Camp
New York Road Runners begins to provide opportunities for youth program participants to attend a week-long overnight running camp outside New York City for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Currently, every summer 200 youth nominated by their coaches attend summer running camp for free thanks to donor support.


First National Site
New York Road Runners Foundation expands beyond New York City to serve youth and schools nationwide, starting with a site in Florida.

Norwegian Travel Program
Five youth participants are selected to attend the first NYRRF/Norwegian Student Travel Program in Oslo, made possible thanks to the Royal Norwegian Consulate General. The students join Grete Waitz for visits to the Olympic Training Center and other sites and run down Oslo’s main street with 90,000 other youth in the Tine Relays. Three trips to NYC and Norway occur through the partnership.


New York Road Runners Foundation and NYRR Integration
New York Road Runners Foundation officially incorporates as part of New York Road Runners.


Running Start Resources
A full collection of free online resources developed by NYRR coaches and exercise physiologists launches to reach a broader audience beyond those served through our in-school program in a continued effort to get more kids moving everywhere. 

The resources later are recognized by the Parent's Choice Awards, the Webby Awards, and the Summit International Awards amongst others.

Youth Ambassador Program and Marathon Grand Marshals
NYRR creates a youth ambassador program as a way to further champion youth and apply the confidence gained through running. NYRR youth ambassadors represent and help bring to life the mission of the organization. 

In 2017, five youth ambassadors representing their home borough alongside Rising New York Road Runners Ambassador & Special Advisor Jenny Simpson serve as the TCS New York City Marathon grand marshals, leading the 50,000+ runners through the streets of NYC.


Launch of NYRR Run for the Future
NYRR Run for the Future is formed to serve girls entering their senior year of high school with no former engagement in organized sports. The young women participate in a seven-week program designed to teach them how to run and live a healthy lifestyle, culminating in a 5K. Upon completion the young women are awarded a college scholarship.

Learn more about NYRR Run for the Future.

Run for the Future Runners


First Youth Invitational 
Nearly 600 kids run the final 1.8 miles of the TCS New York City Marathon course at the inaugural NYRR Youth Invitational. The event is televised on WABC-TV, Channel 7.


Youth Events are Free
All NYRR youth events are now free to all registrants.

1 For You, 1 For Youth Launch
In December, NYRR opens the NYRR RUNCENTER featuring the New Balance Run Hub, a community running center. The space also serves as the home of the 1 for You 1 for Youth shoe donation program. For each pair of shoes purchased at the NB Run Hub, a pair of shoes is given to a child in NYRR’s youth programs.

Learn more about 1 for You 1 for Youth


NYRR Youth Wheelchair Training
NYRR launches a free year-round program designed to introduce and teach youth ages 6-21 with physical disabilities the sport of wheelchair racing.

Youth wheelchair athlete 

Launch of Rising New York Road Runners
In September, NYRR launches Rising New York Road Runners, its new youth program and event platform, focusing on physical literacy and long-term athlete development. In the inaugural year, 267,000 youth across the country were served through our free program, events, and resources.

Read more about Rising New York Road Runners.

 Rising New York Road Runners kids playing

Jenny Simpson Becomes Rising New York Road Runners Ambassador and Special Advisor 

Jenny Simpson with kids


Billion Mile Race Acquisition
Through the partnership with the New Balance Foundation and Tufts University, NYRR acquires Billion Mile Race as another way to get more kids moving.

Meb Keflezighi Becomes NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador and Special Advisor 

Meb Keflezighi with a Rising New York Road Runner participants


Rising New York Road Runners Expands to Puerto Rico
Rising New York Road Runners expands to Puerto Rico in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico. 

Beverly Ramos Becomes Rising New York Road Runners Ambassador and Special Advisor to Puerto Rico

Bev Ramos with Rising New York Road Runners in Puerto Rico

20,000 Pair of Shoes to Youth
As part of a commitment started in 2007 to provide kids with the access, they need to be physically active, NYRR gives the 20,000 pair of shoes to a child.


You can help NYRR's free youth programs develop towards the next 20 years and beyond by making a donation today. 

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