Graeme Armstrong: We need to get young people into sport

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One of my greatest passions is running. I’ve been an athlete all my life, and now share my love for the sport as far and wide as possible, helping people see the benefits it brings.

However, the biggest challenge we are facing nowadays is getting youths involved. Young people from about the age of 13, are less likely to get out and about running and instead chose other ways to spend their time; often indoors. This is a crucial age where we want to encourage people into the sport. It’s been proven and by my own personal experience, that running helps relieve stress, fatigue, anxiety and is a great way of keeping fit. It’s also free and doesn’t require fancy equipment, another bonus for people looking to get healthy.

“A lot of the youngsters we see start out as very shy and timid, but once they really get into running you see their self-esteem build and increase in their confidence as they start to feel a sense of personal pride in their achievements. It’s also a fantastic way to make friends. Take me for example, I still have friends I met back in the 70s and 80s that I played football with, who are today still heavily involved in sports, including running. You create your own community of people through sharing the passion and the experiences of the training highs, and lows. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is very beneficial and helps spur you on through tougher times.

Running, not just competitively, also helps with your teamwork skills and concentration levels, something parents or guardians may want to consider for their own children. It helps your mind and body as it not only helps blow the cobwebs away, but helps your muscle tone, improves your skin, and along with a healthy diet, keeps you very fit. The earlier you can start this in life, I’d say, the better.

If you already do running as a hobby, no matter your age, I’d recommend joining a club or entering a competition as the positives are endless. We started CERF as a running festival with the aim to get the whole community together. We wanted to create an event that pushes and praises our athletes. It’s also a chance for runners to compete and have family, friends and neighbours, come along, adding to the electric atmosphere of the evening. Having goals such as competitions also helps push you mentally and physically.

The main issue we face is attracting the younger generation to the sport and keeping their interest. Encouraging more young people into running isn’t an easy task, but hopefully events like CERF will show our communities how engaging and exciting the sport can be. The benefits reach beyond the individual athletes and into entire communities who can cheer and support the event.”

CERF takes place on July 1 at 6pm at Meggetland Sports Complex in Edinburgh with runners aged 9-70.

Graeme Armstrong is a Scottish ex- footballer and organiser of the City of Edinburgh Running Festival.

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