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Elisabeth Ross discovered Marathon Kids at a homeschooling conference last spring and after starting a run club at home with her family, she decided to bring it to her Georgia-based FUEL Homeschool Co-op this school year. The co-op meets once monthly, and at their first meeting this month, they officially kicked off Marathon Kids with 19 elementary class participants and 17 middle/high school class participants.

“With just one session, the feedback I’m getting from the moms is wonderful. Homeschool moms have very little time to themselves and it’s really hard to use that time to exercise. They’re excited about the chance to exercise with their kids. I don’t really think of myself as having an inspiring story, but today I actually felt like a role model to the other moms.”

Elisabeth’s Marathon Kids Kickoff was integrated into their first co-op meeting for the year. She spread the word about Marathon Kids beforehand and prepared co-op families to join by sharing information from the Marathon Kids website, a personal testimony of her family’s experience, and emphasis on the Nike rewards. Elisabeth wore the Marathon Kids shirt she received as part of her family run club and built excitement by displaying the rewards and explaining how they would set goals, track mileage and earn each reward. The different planning tools Marathon Kids provided also enabled Elisabeth to structure their run club according to their unique environment and customize to fit their needs.

Elizabeth armed her co-op club with the Marathon Kids Session Cards, marked with which sessions were to be completed at home versus with the co-op. She created a Facebook Page to post updates and motivation for the participants, and is scheduling monthly meet-ups at local parks to log mileage together. Their kickoff was simple and part of their first, greater co-op meeting, which included running games from the Marathon Kids Session Cards for the elementary-aged kids and doing a mile of walk/run intervals with the middle and high school students.

“The Marathon Kids program is great for a lot of settings, but for homeschool moms, it gives the opportunity to involve the kids in exercising with you. Having my kids get excited about getting miles in has really enabled me to get out there and exercise on a regular basis – I am even exercising on vacation!”

As for advice for your run club’s season, Elisabeth says: “One thing Marathon Kids suggested in the family materials that totally changed the experience for me was to take out you ear buds and focus on the time with your kids. I had previously only ever run listening to music but decided to try it, and it has provided a lot of good non-confrontational talking time with my kids, especially with my ‘tween.’”

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“Coming across Marathon Kids program one late night was a blessing in disguise for my family and me. Our kickoff ceremony was a simple, brisk walk to our local Whittier Greenway Trail. Once we reached the entrance to the trail I began explaining to my son, Peter (10 years old), and my husband, Peter Sr., that as a family we were at the beginning of a new health journey.

They looked puzzled as I continued to talk. I mentioned that we were going to exercise together but before doing so we were going to race each other. I gave my younger son, Paul, a noise maker clapper. As I counted down “3,2,1…GO,” we raced each other only a quarter of a mile. Tired, winded, and hot. I told them we are much too young to feel tired from a short quick run, that from that day forward, we were a team – a club. That under the guidance of Marathon Kids, we had made a family team.

My son Peter was doubtful. He didn’t believe he could run a mile straight without stopping. Fear in his eyes, knowing he has asthma and environmental allergies, he questioned me and he questioned the process of reaching our goal. Although extremely excited about the rewards, there was a lot of fear of failure.

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As a family, we sat down with a calendar in-hand and counted how many weeks we had left of summer break. We decided to train/jog/run/play every other day at Whittier Greenway Trail and between those days, we would use our backyard to implement Marathon Kids games for 20 minutes (which would be an equivalent to a mile).

Everyday we jogged together and played together. Although hard at times for my husband – being a veteran of the Marines, he continues his hard work ethic at his current job – I’ve embedded how important it is for me to keep our family healthy from inside out. So, he would go hiking on the weekends and I would sign us up for community races, virtual races, charity races. We would dress up in my kids’ favorite movie and super hero characters, and even silly looking outfits to motivate us, to continue our journey as a family.

I used quotes I found online, Pinterest, books, poems, news articles and magazines as a ritual starting our runs every morning. I would ask my son to analyze what I had read, to explain it in his own words. That encouraged him and also entertained while we jogged – we would talk and it helped him keep going. One quote he particularly liked was and is: “a strong person looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.”

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I explain to my son that no matter how hard a goal or obstacle may be, if you just set your mind to it, you will be able to achieve and conquer that goal. We concluded our club session, but we continue our trainings. We train for virtual runs, towards raising money for organizations that need assistance (like Operation Gratitude and Team Red White and Blue).

What can I say, other than if I had not crossed paths with the Marathon Kids website that one very late night, my family, myself and my son Peter wouldn’t be where we are currently. On a more positive life path, filled with inspiration, motivation, integrity to help our health by spreading some love and encouraging others to get moving together with family, friends, classmates, and community. Marathon Kids gave me the tools and guidance to set the foundation to help my son on his journey. I encourage you to do the same.”