RICHMOND, Va. -- Damón Manning, a Richmonder, is a member of Black Men Run RVA. He’s also a volunteer coach for Sports Backers Kids Run RVA. The program is made up of students in elementary and middle school participating in running clubs in the Richmond region.
"Do it the best way you can, this is practice, it’s not perfect, it's practice, you’ll get better and better as your body gets used to it."
The program, suggested by a friend, led Manning to explore the possibilities.
"I've worked in early childhood, all my life pretty much as a professional. And he also knew that I really wanted to get back into doing things in my community.
Manning got his wish and has been volunteering for six years, he and his coaches meet with this group from Lucille Brown Middle school twice a week for practice.
"I thought it would be fun and I like running," Malik Hyman said.
Hyman is a middle school student at Lucille Brown. The eighth-grader ran his first race in the Hill Topper 5K this March.
"My coach wanted me to go so I went, and It’s not always about getting in first place or second place, it’s about trying hard and trying your best," Hyman said.
Naomi Idemudia, a tenth-grade student, started running with the club in the sixth grade. She now volunteers as an assistant coach.
"I had a lot of fun doing it and I wanted to come back to help more kids have that fun too," Idemudia said.
"So with Kids Run RVA, it is an opportunity for us to really expose children to running and fitness. But specifically, just a variety of different ways of running. I think for some kids, they fall in love with the opportunity of being part of a group. And so, they have like a group identity, and they find their place in that space," Manning said.
"Coach D, he really makes it a good environment, he’s such a positive person, he’s really nice to us and just like all the kids together it’s just a lot of fun," Idemudia said.
Creating a community of people who care, Manning says his group feels connected being a part of the run club.
"We know that running not only helps us physically, but it helps to beat depression. It gives us ways of moving through space, it's an option for us to have a healthy life and lifestyle," Manning said.
Sharing his lifelong passion for running, Manning is also captain of Black Men Run RVA, a national organization promoting a culture of health fitness.
"The focus is really to really address using running as one of the ways of addressing such things as hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, I'm looking at men's health issues," Manning said.
Though the group is called Black Men Run RVA, they welcome all kinds of people to run with them.
"Women can join Black Men Run. We got a good group. Men, women, and of course people of all backgrounds and diaspora we welcome everyone," Manning said. "I hope that they can learn to enjoy just being outside and just running more, being more active, I know it helped me a lot with wanting to exercise in my own free time and run around the neighborhood. For everybody who ever wanted to race in life, don’t always think about going in the first place or second just work hard and try your best."
On Saturday, members of Black Men Run RVA with about 350 Kids from run clubs will participate in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K. The following week, the men will run the Ragnar Trail Relay, a 24-hour trail run in Pocahontas State Park covering 122 miles to raise funds for Kids Run RVA.
To date, Manning has raised over $4,300 for the run club.
"So if you’re still thinking about running in Saturday’s race, you can register Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Siegel Center at Broad and Harrison Streets," Manning said.
For more information about the Ukrop's 10K, click here.