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As a Physical Education teacher at a Title I school in Cornelius, Oregon, Coach Ashleigh Crunican knew that her students were dealing with issues like homelessness, abusive households, and struggles with academics and self-esteem.

And with many of the students living in a mobile park community on a busy road, they didn’t have the safest spaces to play in or run around, either.

The majority of the school population consists of first-generation American students living below the poverty line, so Coach Crunican was committed to providing a Marathon Kids run club to her students for free.

During the school week, Coach Crunican’s students get 1 hour of P. E. classes. With the help of Marathon Kids donors, the Cruisers run club members now get to spend another hour together snacking, goal-setting, playing games, and logging their miles.

Kids Run Club

Photo courtesy of Pamplin Media Group.

Nicole, a third grader, has been joined on the track by her mother every Tuesday. Mom cheers on the runners, volunteers to track mileage, and even runs around the track with her daughter. As a family, they are pursuing better health.

After reaching her first milestone, Nicole looked surprised and said, “I can’t believe I ran a marathon!” Inspired by one of her high school volunteer coaches, Nicole now wants to pole vault and run high school cross country and track, just like her coach.

Fourth grade speed racer Yosgart thought he would only run one marathon, and now he’s already run two (52.4 miles!). An avid soccer player and dancer with the school’s Ballet Folklorico group, Yosgart has discovered his love of speed too.

“I like the way it feels when I can go really fast,” he says.

Coach Crunican has been thrilled with the results for the kids she coaches.

“I want to let you know how grateful I am. I really enjoyed cheering the kids on as they ran. Toward the end I started to get emotional and had to step away so the kids wouldn’t see me cry! It is so moving to think of what some of those kids are going through – and then to see them smiling, supported by caring adults, running around the field again and again. The run club will be such a valuable experience in so many ways for everyone involved!”

For more information on Marathon Kids grants, click here.

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Lizbeth Tello saw that her students at GRATTS Elementary School weren’t moving enough and she wanted to change that. An avid runner herself, she knew just what to do. Her Los Angeles-based Title I school had no budget and her kids’ parents, most living at or below the poverty line, couldn’t afford extracurricular activities or sports. So, Tello applied for a Marathon Kids grant and received funding to start an after school run club.

Marathon Kids Run Club

Coach Lizbeth Tello (l) and Coach Maité Apodaca (r).

Sparking Change at GRATTS

Coach Tello brought Marathon Kids to GRATTS to spark change toward healthier lives for the kids and enlisted a cadre of volunteers to help. With music blasting, healthy snacks between laps, and even some parents joining in on the fun, the run club took off this year, with more than 200 kids running after school.

Meet Brian and Julio

One of the students, Brian Ramos, is 11 years old and just completed 6th grade. When asked how Marathon Kids has made a difference in his life, he responded by saying that Marathon Kids gave him the chance to participate in the LA Nike 10K run.

“I wanted to push myself and see if I could run it under an hour, and I did!” Brian says.

He believes running the 10K was a great experience for him and that running has also helped him with other sports, like soccer. He’s sad that this is his last year at GRATTS; he wants to continue running and he hopes his middle school has a running club.

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Brian and Julio compare miles.

Julio Gonon, also 11 and recently completed 6th grade, says that what he likes about being in the Marathon Kids running club is that running gives him a lot of energy, taking his stress away and relaxing him.

“Running makes me a better student because I am more focused in class and now I do my homework every day,” Julio says. “I have lost 15 pounds and I feel much healthier.”

Coach Tello’s dream to make a positive, lasting impact in the lives of her students is coming true.

Kids Run Club

Marathon Kids after school run club at GRATTS Elementary in Los Angeles.

To start your own run club, apply for a Marathon Kids grant!

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Tiffany Forté was volunteering with an organization called PowerUp D.C. when she met a representative from Athletes for Hope, which connects athletes to charitable causes. Through Athletes for Hope, Tiffany heard about Marathon Kids, and she was captivated.

An athlete herself, Tiffany was intrigued by the opportunity to coach kids. Soon after, she embarked on her first year as a Marathon Kids coach for two Washington, D.C. schools: Kipp Public Charter School and Hendley Elementary School. Kids at both schools run during their after-school program.

Kids Run Club

Tiffany shares responsibility for the two clubs with two professional runners who also volunteered to help, and between the three of them, they visit each school twice every month. Each visit is an hour, and they talk with the students about nutrition, health, and review the mileage logs together. They also engage in warmup exercises, run, play, and cool down.

“The kids’ excitement has gone through the roof,” Tiffany says. “They love the games we play and as they have gotten to know us, they have become less shy with us. Sometimes, the kids will even volunteer to lead the warmups.”

A former student athlete herself from North Pulaksi High School, Tiffany trained for running and volleyball to enhance her overall athleticism and challenge herself in new ways. After she graduated from Henderson State University in 2011, she started her own personal training program for women.

Tiffany works with clients on their health and fitness all day, and she has a frequent message she imparts to them: “We’re ALL athletes… we move.” Some athletes have more training under their belts, she says, but all of our bodies are trained for movement.

The common denominator is to have a point of interest, she says.

“As leaders, we have to make sure that we’re doing things to interest the kids. For the kid who doesn’t think he’s athletic, for instance, we give him some ownership. If he doesn’t want to run, we encourage him to lead the warmups. Or the cooldown. If you can get a kid to participate in some way, the next time they’ll be empowered to do more.”

Kids Run Club

Connecting to the kids is key, and Tiffany works with the students to get them all moving, because kids are generally expected to sit down, be quiet, and listen all day long at school. Her objective, at the end of every session, is to lead the kids toward setting and achieving their goals. As long as they’re moving, she says, that’s what is important. And if they have fun, they’re going to keep doing it.

“I ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. When they answer, I say, ‘Great! You need to be healthy to be able to do those things.’ I explain to them that what they eat, drink, and sleep affects them when they get older.”

Marathon Kids Run Club

Tiffany appreciates the support from Marathon Kids’ staff, and she believes in the incentives to give the kids something to look forward to.

“I think Marathon Kids makes it easy for kids to meet their goals. And it’s teacher friendly!” she says. “Teachers have a lot on their plate. This is a little something extra and we give the teachers a break. It’s important for kids to learn how to be active and the purpose of that. Marathon Kids does a good job laying out the foundation. Ultimately, these kids may not remember my name, but I hope the habits stick with them.”

Marathon Kids Run Club