When the Cooper River Bridge Run takes place in early April, a group of youngsters from the Charleston Recreation Department’s “Ready, Set, Run” program will be prepared.

Since early January, 15 youngsters ages 7-14, have been meeting twice a week in downtown Charleston, Daniel Island, West Ashley and James Island for the program that introduces children to running and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

The goal at the end of the program is for the youngsters to be prepared to run a 5K race.

The group that showed up for a recent “Ready, Set, Run” practice was small but enthusiastic. But the size could be excused with blustery winds blowing off the nearby Ashley River and temperatures dropping into the 40s.

“Our attendance is usually around 70 percent with school and everything else going on,” said Katlin Silberg of the Charleston Recreation Department.

“Ready, Set, Run” was developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and adopted this year by the recreation department.

It isn’t about going out and running three miles every session, Silberg said. “Ready, Set, Run” is a lesson-based program in which topics such as healthy eating are discussed, followed by warm-ups and stretching exercises.

It ends with running games such as relay races or tag that are designed to build endurance.

“I saw it in the recreation email and felt like I would like it,” said Margaret Carter, a 9-year-old student at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School. “I wouldn’t be stressed. It seemed like it would really be fun.”

Carter’s mother, Nicole Carter, had high praise, saying her daughter had embraced the twice-weekly practice sessions.

Letrice Smalls said “Ready, Set, Run” was keeping her 10-year-old daughter, Jaliyah Foulks, who also takes karate lessons, active.

Wesley Smith said he saw “Ready, Set, Run” as a way to help his 11-year-old son, Rafael Smith, build his endurance that would translate into other sports such as football, basketball and baseball.

Silberg said the program received a grant from the Cooper River Bridge Run that included 24 free entries into the April 6 run as well as the children’s run on the day prior.

Staff and volunteers will participate with the youths in a “buddy” run, and Silberg said she hopes some parents will run as well.