Runners Q&A: Robin Lindsay on GO FAR at 20

GO FAR, an after-school program in which students learn about nutrition, character and goal-setting as they train to run a 5K, is celebrating its 20th year.

Runners Q&A: Robin Lindsay on GO FAR at 20
Robin Lindsay founded the GO FAR program in 2003 (Eddie Wooten photo).

GO FAR has come far in 20 years.

If you went back and rated the first race in 2003, you might give it a 9.

The first GO FAR race (photo courtesy of GO FAR).

"We had trained 16 kids that year from Montlieu Elementary, and only nine came out and ran," says GO FAR founder, High Point resident and runner Robin Lindsay. "It was pretty pitiful-looking."

You should see it now.

Click on the video above to see scenes from the GO FAR spring race in May 2023.

More than 2,000 signed up for the GO FAR race in May 2023 in High Point, a strong sign that the organization is regaining the momentum it had built before the COVID pandemic took hold in 2020 and almost took down GO FAR.

GO FAR, or Go Out For a Run, is a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers an after-school curriculum for schools and organizations in Guilford County and beyond that focuses on goal-setting, nutrition and character building as students train to run a 5K. More than 40 teams are planning to participate in the fall race on Nov. 11 in High Point.

Meanwhile, GO FAR will mark its 20th anniversary with a Sneaker Ball on Thursday night that will welcome coaches, former GO FAR runners and sponsors. The ball will be the second of two key events next week: GO FAR and Fleet Feet Sports will team up Monday night for a raffle-and-run to support the organization's Lace Up program, helping put students in proper shoes for their training.

Lindsay answered a few questions, about GO FAR's beginnings and its future, for today's Runners Q&A.

RS: It's been 20 years now, but what has GO FAR been all about for you?

Lindsay: "It started as something where I thought it was going to be maybe just children running. But it blossomed into the siblings going out with them to run, the parents, sometimes grandparents. That is what surprised me the most, that it became a whole family outing to go out and run together, to enjoy something that they can all do together.

Robin Lindsay, in the white cap, working at the finish line of a GO FAR race in 2017 (Eddie Wooten photo). 

"The teachers have been a huge surprise to me that they are so devoted. They are so passionate about helping these kids. To take time out of your day, after you've already spent almost all day with them, to stay after school and coach these kids. It just amazes me. They're so generous of their time and are creating lasting memories of these teachers. I can always remember the names of my first-, second-, third-grade teachers; they seem to always stand out in my mind. But if they had gone out and run a race with me? I'd really remember that. These teachers are doing a lot more than they even know. Making an impression or being this mentor to these children is a huge factor in success for these kids."

Age: 61.
Residence: High Point.
Family: Husband, John.
Day job: Physician assistant, part-time; also works in corporate wellness, Everside Health. "It's something I really love because it's right up my alley of helping people try to stay healthy and think about what they're putting in their mouth and staying active," she says.
Side ventures: Started the non-profit Every Snout Counts of the Piedmont and is in early stages of developing another, the Four Paws Spay and Neuter, as co-founder and a member of the board of directors.
Why she runs: "It is my mental health. I just feel so alive and grateful when I see the sun coming up and how beautiful it is. I can't explain it; I guess it's that runner's high. It's just this really wonderful feeling of just being outside and breathing in fresh air and seeing the sun come up. I just love it."

RS: You created GO FAR. Can you describe your involvement with the organization today.

Lindsay: "Prior to COVID, I just was a board member, which was great. Our board was overseeing the staff, and the staff was just doing a wonderful job. (COVID) all sort of changed things and we had to get creative, like a lot of people, about how we could bring in money since our races were our big fundraisers for GO FAR. All of a sudden, we could not have an event.

"So we became creative, and we did that virtual 2020. When we were able to do an adult race, we did the pumpkin race. We had a very creative staff, a very willing board to get behind these things, and we actually scraped through.

"We did not glide through, for sure; it was tough. I thought we might have to close the doors. ... It was hard because I thought after all these years now, we're going to lose it. But everyone rallied and I think we're about back to our numbers pre-COVID."

RS: How close?

Lindsay: "Very close. We actually started talking to some organizations in the community, if they had any thoughts on whether they would be interested in absorbing our non-profit. It got to that point. And then slowly things started to improve, and we just continued to go on the route that we were on before it all hit. It's come back.

"Teachers – because of the mental health issues that have happened because of the lockdowns – see even more and more how important it is to get outside to exercise and be around people. That's what makes us all happy, when we can connect with other people.

"It's been an eye-opener. COVID was awful, but it really opened our eyes to 'what are the issues?' How an organization could be so vulnerable to closing its doors because of something like that and how it affected the kids and the teachers."

RS: What inspired the creation of GO FAR?

Lindsay: "I was on an airplane flying to Colorado, and I had just finished the Kiawah marathon in the fall and was so inspired that I could even do something like that. So I thought, 'Let me see if I can put something together for a 5K for young kids.' I was working at High Point University, and I already had seen that the kids were 18 and 19; it was hard to change their lifestyles or convince them to change their lifestyles at that point. But if you could get in and start working with young kids, that is something that was going to be a more successful endeavor.

Moments before the start of a GO FAR race on Piedmont Parkway in High Point (Eddie Wooten photo).

"I just started jotting down what things were important to me, and the three pillars of GO FAR, which are fitness, nutrition, and character building, were what I wanted to put in every lesson. Every time they met, they needed to find out what they were going to walk-run that day, they needed to get a nutrition tip or lesson, and then talk about a character trait. Character traits in running just automatically come, like perseverance and self-discipline. But you have to get the kids to think about that. 'Did you realize that even though it was hot today that you could finish the run?' Just showing kids that they have these abilities within them that will get them through other things in life, not just running. When you have self-discipline, it's going to make you successful in other things you do throughout your life. Or if you have perseverance, it's going to make things easier to work through when you have a roadblock.

"Those were the things I wanted to put in the lesson plans. And it's changed a lot since the first curriculum we had, but those three pillars have always stayed the same."

RS: GO FAR's first race came in the fall of 2003. What do you remember about that one?

Lindsay: "Oh my gosh, just begging people to come to it. I thought, 'I'll put on a race at a High Point University, and we'll get people from the college who will want to run.' No. It was hard. I had 97 people at it, and 10 were my own family members. It was a hard sell. I don't know why I was thinking 'put on a race and they will come.'

The first GO FAR race consisted of a few runners and a few balloons for the awards ceremony (photo courtesy of Robin Lindsay).

"The finish line was like seven orange cones with the little flags and a chalk line that said 'Finish.' That was our finish line. And maybe a few parents scattered along the greenway waiting for their kid to come. When I look at the pictures, it's pretty funny."

RS: What has been the biggest impact that GO FAR has made on schools or in the community?

Lindsay: "Just bringing all these schools together at an event. I don't know any other event that teachers can come together with their class kids, and this camaraderie and this vibration and this energy that is at the race is something that I can't explain.

Runners during a GO FAR race in 2017 (Eddie Wooten photo).

"When you try to tell people who you're asking to sponsor the program, 'Hey, be a sponsor of GO FAR; it's a 5K race.' They just think, '5K race.' It has some energy that you cannot even describe to people unless they're there.

"I have had the mayor of High Point and other high officials come to the race and go, 'My gosh, how come I didn't know this was going on in our city?'

Click on the video above and slide to begin at the 2:00 mark to see what the GO FAR spring race looked like in May 2022.

"It's just one of those things. You have to see this to understand that the kids are so excited. There are thousands of parents and grandparents lining the sides of the race chute at the end. Those kids feel like a million dollars when they're running through that last 100 yards. It's pretty amazing when you're 9 or 10 years old, and you've got all those people cheering for you, it's got to be a big dopamine rush."

Running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson, left, visited a GO FAR race in 2009 with Lindsay, right, and Greensboro resident Lisa Watts.

RS: What might the next 20 years of GO FAR look like?

Lindsay: "I don't know if this is everyone's vision. I've talked a little bit about it with our staff. I really think we should focus a lot on nutrition. There's a fast-food restaurant on every corner. It's cheaper to eat at McDonald's with your kids than it is to eat at home. I would love to see more training into how you can do a low-cost meal at home that's healthy or how you can encourage eating more whole foods, being a label-reader.

"There's so much junk in our food. Obesity and heart disease are not getting any lesser. The food industries: It's hard to overcome their power. There are too many temptations out there. It's hard to make decisions on nutrition when you've got a fast-food restaurant on every corner and junk food everywhere. Everywhere.

"You used to be you'd get a snack if you did something good, or you got dessert at the end of the day if you were good. Now you can get it anytime you want, candy bars and soft drinks that have sugar in them; there are way too many of those.

Lace Up Run
When: 6 p.m. Monday.
Where: Fleet Feet Sports, 2762 N.C. 68, High Point.
Notable: Buy $5 raffle tickets online or at the store for a chance to win running shoes, a watch or a pair of Birkenstocks to support GO FAR's Lace Up program. The run will begin at 6 p.m, with the raffle following at 7.

Sneaker Ball
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Where: The Blue Heron, 4130 Mendenhall Oaks Parkway, High Point.
Notable: The Sneaker Ball is a celebration of GO FAR's 20 years. Click to buy tickets.

Triad GO FAR Community 5K
When: 8:15 a.m. Nov. 11.
Where: Showplace Courtyard, 211 E. Commerce Ave., High Point.
Notable: The race is open to not just students but adults. Click to sign up.

"We really need to start getting behind some kind of effort to get kids to think of eating healthier. I want them to think of their bodies as a Ferrari. You wouldn't put really bad gas in a Ferrari; you'd want that thing to run hard and run strong, and you're going to take care of it and wash it and clean it and keep it nice. That's what I want kids to think their bodies are: 'I'm a Ferrari, and I need to put good food in my body to make it run properly.'"

RS: What is it that drives your passion for helping animals?

Lindsay: "I got involved in that maybe six or seven years ago when I saw a dog tied to a tree without any access to water. It just really bothered me. I called the local humane society, and they came out and did a spot-check. We ended up talking to the people who owned the dog. They were like, 'We'd like to rehome it anyway.'

"They asked if I would be willing to go out with her on calls through the humane society and help people in the community get dog houses and dog food. I just started doing that every week, sometimes twice a week, going out.

"And then I started my own organization called Every Snout Counts, a new non-profit that started a little over a year ago. I became a certified rabies vaccinator, so now we go out and we give low-cost or no-cost rabies vaccinations to pet owners who can't afford it.

"There's a lot of animals at the shelter being euthanized, puppies and kittens, just too many animals being dumped, and I saw that spay-neuter was a huge thing we needed to invest in. We started another non-profit called Four Paws Spay and Neuter; we're going to be starting a new spay-neuter clinic hopefully in the near future. It's in the very beginning stages; we're still looking for a building."

Editor's note: Eddie Wooten is in his second year serving on the board of directors of GO FAR. The role is voluntary.