Kids Running Club: Meet the Uniontown Little Harriers

Ever wonder what a kids running club looks like? 

Grab your running shoes, and let's go! 

Here's what it's like to work out, train and have fun with the Uniontown Little Harriers.

Kids-based running clubs are an excellent way to:

  • Inspire younger generations to exercise
  • Introduce kids to the positive physical, mental, emotional and social development that running with a group offers
  • Introduce a sport that emphasizes individual development within the context of a team, all working toward the goal of self-improvement for the betterment of the group and broader community

Some nationwide kids running programs include: 

Large cities even have their own kids running clubs. One that’s close to me, about a 1.5 hour drive, is Pittsburgh’s Kids of STEEL.

And recently, an even more local, small city kids running club popped up, right in the town where I attended high school...

Meet the Uniontown Little Harriers kids running club in Uniontown, Penn.

The Uniontown Little Harriers kids running club is based in Uniontown, Penn. Coaches include: Emily Flinn, Angela Braun and Matt Girod.

The Uniontown Little Harriers origin story...

“My oldest son, Carter, expressed his desire to run with kids, as he was disappointed in the number of kids at a race he was doing,” says Little Harriers co-founder Emily Flinn, ultrarunner and mother of two elementary-aged boys. 

Carter inspired his mom to do some research. 

The results...

  • Too far away. Clubs that were either too far to reasonably travel on a regular basis or ones that were not the right fit. 
  • No local kids running clubs. From there, Emily reached out to a fellow Uniontown runner, Angela Braun, mother of three, to inquire whether she knew of any kids running clubs. 
  • Let's do this! When Angela responded that none currently existed in their hometown, “she then posed the idea that we start our own,” says Emily.

And so they did.

Uniontown Little Harriers Run Club’s inaugural meet-up

🏃‍♂️Kids running club: Day one🏃‍♀️

Emily and Angela made a Uniontown Little Harriers Facebook group and reached out to friends with kids by word of mouth and text message. 

To complete their leadership team, they recruited accomplished local runner and former track and field and cross country high school coach Matt Girod, father of two young girls, as a fellow Little Harriers Coach. 

  • And on day one, May 19, 2022, seven kids showed up to run. 
  • They were split into two groups and ran nearly two miles on a paved asphalt section of the Sheepskin Trail on a sunny and beautiful spring day.

When kids join the Uniontown Little Harriers...

“We want Uniontown Little Harriers Run Club to be a group for Uniontown/ Laurel Highlands area kids and their families who enjoy running by providing opportunities for kids to meet up to run, have fun and form friendships,” says Emily. 

Angela says short-term and long-term goals for the Little Harriers include:

  • Foster the love of running within each kid
  • Serve as a feeder system of athletes into cross country and track and field teams at the middle and high school levels. 

“In this area, the successes seen in sports are directly proportional to the well-developed youth club teams," says Angela.

"Aside from the parochial schools, there are no youth running clubs/ programs in the county."

Other goals for the kids running club include:

  • To get kids outside and moving
  • To teach basic running skills and track and field concepts, like relays
  • To show kids that running can be fun
The Uniontown Little Harriers kids running club was created to foster the love of running and serve as a feeder system middle school and high school cross country and track.

Kids running club: How it works

Who can run?

Little Harriers is open to children ages three to 12. Parents are welcome to run alongside children if they’d like, but they are not required. Coaches always ensure that there is an adult leader with each group. 

Where?

They meet at various Fayette County locations, such as parks, playgrounds, schools, city rail trails, tracks and hiking trails. Once they took a trip to run at the West Virginia University swim center/ cross country course.

When?

The Little Harriers meet one time per week during the school year and two times per week during summer, with a break during the winter months.

What and how? 

The run sessions begin like a typical cross country or track workout without some traditional, kid-friendly warm-ups. 

Then they divide the kids by age and experience, with typically two groups: Pre-K (known as The Chicken Nuggets) and school age.

Sure, running is part of the Uniontown Little Harriers kids running club. But there's also lots of FUN!

Little Harriers prioritize fun

🏃‍♀️“Angela has been a creative genius when it comes to creating the activities for the kiddos," says Emily.

"She really is the mastermind of most of the activities including but not limited to: Ice relays, caterpillar runs, water balloon relays, easter egg relays, Puzzle relays and obstacle type courses."

🏃‍♂️Matt has also been amazing with activities, including obstacle courses, and introducing relays, including baton handoffs, and leading stretches, etc,” says Emily of her co-coaches. 

They end each session with:

  • Light cooldowns
  • Stretches and...
  • Sometimes even snacks like fresh watermelon

It’s clear that “fun” is at the heart of each Little Harriers run session.

As avid runners themselves, the coaches are fully engaged in the kids’ experiences and participate in all the activities. 

⏱️During their first season, the kids and coaches competed in hill repeats. 

And guess who won? The kids! 

Their reward: cooling off their coaches with water balloons.

A workout for the Uniontown Little Harriers may include obstacle courses, relays, and runs followed by a cooldown and stretching.

Thoughts from a Little Harrier...

Meet Elsa Judy, age 7 (at the time of the interview), daughter of Kelly Judy

When I asked Elsa’s mom, Kelly, how Elsa feels about running, she said, “Sometimes she likes it, sometimes she doesn’t, though it seems pretty easy for her. But she does have fun running at the run club, because they do different activities that are fun!”

👇Let’s see what else Elsa has to say about running.👇
.

Brynn: What other sports and activities do you do?
Elsa:
Theater, swimming, tumbling

.
Brynn: How does running make you feel?
Elsa:
It makes me feel good. 
.

Brynn: What was your favorite Little Harriers session that you’ve attended?
Elsa:
The Easter egg challenge. 
.

Brynn: How do you think running will benefit you as a person, in your other athletic pursuits or activities, in academics, and in life in general?
Elsa:
I like to work out, and if you run more you can have a lot of energy to work out. 
.

Brynn: What is your favorite thing about Little Harriers?
Elsa:
At the end we always get freeze pops.

Meet the Uniontown Little Harriers Coaches

🏃‍♀️Emily Flinn

Coach Emily Flinn.

Profession: Stay-at-home mom

Age Emily began running: 28

Greatest running achievement: West Virginia’s Rim to River 100-mile trail race held in the New River Gorge, 2021 and 2022 (read about her 2021 race here)

Children: Carter, 10, and Harlan, six (ages when they began running with the Little Harriers) 

Do your kids participate in Little Harriers? Yes

How do your kids feel about running? They love to go on trail running adventures because we can see more neat places than if we only hike. They also like to see their own improvement in both speed and distance.

🏃‍♀️Angela Braun

Coach Angela Braun.

Profession:  Chiropractor

Age Angela running:  About 12, the summer before seventh grade

College running resume: 

  • Kent State University, 2000-2004 
  • Four seasons of cross country, indoor track (3k) and outdoor track (steeplechase) 
  • 2004 XC MAC Team Champions
  • 2002 Outdoor MAC Team Champions

Coaching experience: Laurel Highlands High School Assistant Varsity Coach for Cross Country and Track,  2010-2018

Greatest running achievement: Never having a stress fracture.

Children:  Arden, nine; Vale, eight; and Karis, three  (ages when they began running with the Little Harriers) 

How do your kids feel about running?  Indifferent. I have encouraged my kids to run to help with fitness for other sports. 

🏃‍♂️Matthew Girod

Coach Matthew Girod.

Profession: High School Spanish teacher, former cross country, track and field, swimming and diving and soccer coach

Age Matt began running: All my life with sports and playing outside, but formally started in eighth grade to get in shape for soccer

College running and soccer resume: 

  • Bethany College, West Virginia 
  • Men's Soccer 
    • 2001 Presidents Athletic Conference Champions
    • 2001 NCAA Division III National Championship Qualifying Team
  • Track and Field, Indoor and Outdoor
    • Events: 400 meter and 800 meter 

Other coaching experience: 

  • Four years varsity soccer, Uniontown High School
  • Seven years varsity swimming and diving, Uniontown High School
  • 15 years varsity track and field (five years as girls head coach), Uniontown High School
  • Eight years assistant varsity cross country coach, Uniontown High School
  • Five years head coach cross country, Penn State Fayette Campus

Greatest running achievement: I was blessed to be on a very good relay team in high school. My team won a WPIAL (sixth or seventh I believe) medal in the 3200m relay, with each person running an 800 meter (half mile) as fast as they could.

Children: Nola, seven, and Hazel, three (ages when they began running with the Little Harriers) 

How do your kids feel about running? They love going out and playing. We focus more on the play aspect of the run club. If we're on the local bike trail, we stop and look at the mini waterfalls, we love playing puzzle relay at run club, etc. They thoroughly enjoy the club activities. 

😃Fun fact: Why are runners called 'harriers'?

The term 'harriers' stems from a 19th-century race in which runners playing “hares” laid a paper trail for runners playing “hounds” to follow. Harrier refers to this hunting dog bred to chase down hares,” —according to Tracksmith.com

For More Info on the Little Harriers 

More on Running with Kids

What do you think of kids running clubs?

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...

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