Local working to promote running in North Mississippi

Bo Boatner grew a love for running at an early age, and after a hiatus from the sport, has returned to competition, recently running in  the USA Cross Country Championships in St. Louis, Mo.
Boatner began running as a teenager under the influence of his uncle. He entered not knowing how long he would last or if he would even enjoy the sport, but it was not long before his competitive nature took over.
“My uncle is in his upper 60’s now, and he, too, started as a teenager,” Boatner said. “Back when he started, you didn’t see kids running like you do now, so he wrote on a shirt ‘No thanks, I don’t need a ride,’ because of how many times people stopped and asked him where he was going and what he was running from.”
Under his uncle’s influence, Boatner ran in high school and collegiately at Ole Miss before taking a break. He still ran occasionally, but did not begin to fully train again until he was 38. The now 41 year-old has stepped into the realm of USA competitions, competing in the master’s division for adults 40 and over, as well as joining a running group, the Atlanta Track Club.
“I went to a race in North Carolina back in the fall, and it’s one that I’ve ran several times before. After that race, someone from the Atlanta Track Club asked if I would consider joining the group, which amazed me since I’m not from that area.”
An advantage of the club is the financial help they give to their runners to compete in national races. Boatner joined the group this year, and is an addition to a group that won the club national championships last year.
Another unique aspect of working with the Atlanta Track Club is the group’s involvement with the Peachtree Roadrace, the world’s largest 10K run, held annually on the 4th of July in the city. While he is unsure of running the race this year, he is looking forward to helping with the event.
“We’re expected to help in some capacity, and I’m excited to see the race and experience it,” he said. “Joining this club is a huge deal, because it’s difficult to be with people you don’t know. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and look forward to running with them in the future.”
In the USA Cross Country Championships in February, Boatner finished seventh in the Master’s Division with a time of 26:55.3, and is looking forward to competing in other USA Track and Field events in the future.
“The USATF events are new to me, and since I’ve been introduced to it and enjoyed the race in St. Louis, I hope to compete in more in the future.”
Close to home, Boatner also promotes running in the New Albany and Tupelo communities. His name is recognized by many for the races he has won in the area, and as a teacher at Longdale Elementary in Tupelo, has started a running club for the children that has grown since its inception four years ago. Boatner is also the assistant cross country coach at Tupelo High School.
While in New Albany, Boatner worked with the New Albany High cross country team while a teaching assistant, working with the PE class at the elementary school.
“Running is great for kids because it’s for everyone,” he said. “I started with 25 kids the first year at Longdale and it’s grown to over 150, approximately one-third of our student body.”
Boatner also supports local running groups and is working to promote running clubs at area schools, like New Albany Elementary.
“The New Albany Runs group has been a great addition to the community, and if I had to give any advice to local runners, it would be to get involved with those types of groups,” he said.
“People run for many different reasons. I run because I like to compete, but others run to stay in shape or just for the social aspect. It’s great to be able to run with friends, and you have accountability with running clubs, so you stay motivated to train.”
Boatner hopes to compete in another USATF event in May as well as other nation-wide events and promoting running in North Mississippi.
Boatner and his wife, Denise Everett Boatner and stepson, Bennett Taylor, reside in New Albany, and Bennett is a senior at New Albany High School.