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photo-2Coach Andy Martin, a K-5 P.E. teacher at Grahamwood Elementary in Shelby County, Tennessee, takes some serious initiative. After hearing about Marathon Kids at one of his district learning days, Coach Andy applied for a grant to start a run club at his school – and never knew how quickly it would take off.

“I thought this would be a cool way to get kids excited about getting up and moving around, and I wanted to make it feel like a real sports team for them,” said Coach Andy. “We ended up having 85 kids sign up for the run club! We planned to meet once a week and work for about an hour – run laps, practice sprints, do exercise warm ups and routines.”

But aside from being an incredible implementor of the program, Coach Andy has taken steps to truly embody some key pillars of Marathon Kids. Like his incredible ability to engage with his community and foster a sense of unity and teamwork.

“We live here in Memphis, so have a lot of universities in the area and it just dawned on me one day to reach out the community and make it an even bigger program than it is,” said Coach Andy. “By doing that, one of the local universities, Christian Brothers University, actually contacted me, asking if I could bring our Marathon Kids out to have a joint practice with their track and field team. It was such a good experience for both groups that we formed a partnership – like having big brothers and sisters as mentors. The coach there loves how his athletes love taking little kids out there. And my kids really look up to them and get autographs and then get to run together.”

But here’s something really special: it doesn’t stop there. Coach Andy has taken every opportunity he’s been given or created himself and has run with it (pun intended). He’s planning to continue the partnership with the university and because interest has been so high, they planned and hosted a Jog-A-Thon fundraiser together in December. They split the proceeds with the university, each party taking home around $550. As it’s the first year of the Christian Brothers University track and field team, Coach Andy says they’re really learning together, supporting each other and he looks forward to further building the relationship between their programs.

Coach Andy’s dedication and excitement has bled into the community in other important ways, too. For example, one of his assistant Coaches is a parent who has done her own work to ensure the success of their runners.

“I work in an “optional school,” meaning we have a real mix of incomes and socio-economics in our students. We have a really involved parent as an assistant Coach and she talked to her own church to do a donation drive for running shoes. When the first drop-off happened, people from her church were bringing brand new shoes that they had purchased for the drive! I normally don’t cry at work for happy reasons – but it was a moment I teared up.”

Thanks to his commitment, creativity and passion for changing the health of kids, Coach Andy has been a catalyst for positive change in his community. Thankfully for his Marathon Kids and for Memphis, it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon.

“Every day, I have kids coming and knocking on my door to see if they can join the run club,” said Coach Andy. “I keep having to promise that they can join next year. I have to grow the program and get more coaches just so all these kids can participate.”

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Coach Andy’s Marathon Kids Tips:

  • Structure is key! Plan out practices and events using the helpful information given to you by Marathon Kids.
  • Reach out to your local community to get others involved. You can get motivational speakers and coaches to help out.
  • Teach with passion and enthusiasm, as your students will feed off it!
  • Make an effort to give positive praise and feedback to all participants to increase motivation.
  • Above all else, remember to have fun!

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AUSTIN, TX – The USATF Foundation partnered with Marathon Kids to bring the USATF Foundation’s youth program Run With US! to five Austin, Texas elementary schools that participate in the Marathon Kids program.

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The five Austin elementary schools, all part of the Austin Independent School District (Austin ISD), that were chosen to participate in the pilot week of Run With US! at Marathon Kids included: Maplewood Elementary, TA Brown Elementary, Oak Springs Elementary, Ortega Elementary, and Pillow Elementary. Over 1,000 kids received the inspiring opportunity to learn from, meet, and exercise with USATF Foundation athletes.

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The athletes who served as Foundation athlete mentors were Olympian hammer thrower Amanda Bingson and Olympic hopeful and 2012 Olympic Trials champion javelin thrower Sam Humphreys. The athletes’ sheer presence at the school lit up the smiling faces of the hundreds of impressionable kids. It was a joyous occasion for everyone involved, including the athletes who dedicated their time to give back in the community.

“Thank you so much to the USA Track & Field Foundation & Marathon Kids for bringing Sam Humphreys and Amanda Bingson to Pillow Elementary. As a Title I campus, our students face an opportunity gap that we try hard to close every day. This was one of those opportunities. Our students loved hearing an inspirational message from actual professional track & field athletes and it was very motivating for them as a precursor to our campus fun run that day! Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving our students this opportunity,” exclaimed Brian Hill, Principal, Dorinda Pillow Elementary School.

At each school, positive messaging was shared by the athletes about what it means to be a professional track & field athlete, how much time and effort goes into making your dreams come true, and that anything is possible if you work hard enough to achieve your goals. The children learned about the athletes healthy eating habits, how they create goals and commit to reaching them, and heard stories of determination and resilience. The athletes also introduced the kids to the USATF Foundation’s free mobile exer-game app that can be used at home to stay active.

“Our shared vision to improve the health and well-being of kids through track & field was certainly the catalyst for Run With US! at Marathon Kids,” Foundation Director Ashley Wright said. “Using US Olympians and Olympic hopefuls to introduce the program and mentor kids along the way makes running come to life as something more than a way to stay in shape, but also as a story of hard work and commitment, a story of Olympic sized dreams coming true, and a friendly face that kids can look up to in their classroom. Run With US! at Marathon Kids gives kids a hard goal, but provides athlete mentors to support them. In this case, US Olympians are often cheering for kids – a memory that’s sure to last a lifetime encouraging kids to face challenging obstacles they may face on the track or in the classroom.”

After the presentation portion of the event at each school, Bingson and Humphreys joined the children outside to cheer them on and run with them as they completed mileage for their Marathon Kids run clubs. Run With US! at Marathon kids has great potential to affect kids not only throughout the Austin area but at Marathon Kids programs across the country where USATF Foundation athletes are eager to give back in their communities.

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About Marathon Kids

Marathon Kids is a nonprofit born out of the belief that kids deserve to live happier, healthier lives – and that we have the ability to make that possible. Kids everywhere need more access to physical activity, and Marathon Kids has built a program, community and movement to get them running. Any motivated adult can start a running club at any school, organization, neighborhood or even at home for just $15 per participant.

For more information, visit marathonkids.org

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Nike and Kids Run Free bring top US project ‘Marathon Kids’ to the UK

Nike Athletes Emily Diamond and James Dasaolu helped launch the initiative

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By Hannah Oakman, Academy Today

Nike and charity Kids Run Free have joined forces to bring new running programme Marathon Kids to UK primary schools. The programme aims to provide fun running experiences for kids, helping them to get active early and for life.

Marathon Kids has already helped to get two million children in the US running regularly, one lap at a time, one day at a time, and eventually running the equivalent of up to four marathons over the course of a school year.

Kids earn Nike rewards, such as t-shirts, shoe laces, tags and wristbands, as they reach each marathon milestone to celebrate their progress.

Todays’ generation of children is the least active ever, according to new, independent research. In England, only one in five boys and one in six girls are meeting current guidelines of at least one hour of moderately intensive physical activity every day, according to the 2012 Health Survey for England. Marathon Kids will initially be launched in primary schools across London with the aim of reaching thousands of children in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

Marathon Kids launched at the end of September at the Newham Leisure Centre Running Track. Children had the chance to meet Nike Athletes Emily Diamond and James Dasaolu who have recently returned from the Rio Olympics.

Track and field athlete and Olympic bronze medalist Emily Diamond, said: ‘Running is a great starting point to get kids moving, because any sports involve running, whether it’s football or hockey. It also helps children to make friends and develop a variety of skills which will be useful later in life, whether that’s sport related or not.’

Dan Burrows, Senior Director for Global Community Impact Europe at Nike, added: “Numerous studies show active kids are happier, healthier and more successful at school and we know that good habits start early in life. Marathon Kids engages kids in a positive, simple, goal-driven running programme to make physical activity a natural part of their lives. We’ve had great success with this initiative in the US and we’re excited to start our partnership with Kids Run Free here in the UK to help even more children lead active lives.”

Schools can request more information on the programme and how to sign up by emailing marathonkids@kidsrunfree.co.uk

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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.”

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Trevor Rener is not an ordinary second grader. Having moved to Austin last summer, he found himself in a new class, a new school and a new country on his first day at Hill Elementary. Unlike most returning second graders, Trevor didn’t recognize a single familiar face as he learned his way around the new halls and classrooms. His mother Joy, was concerned about Trevor making new friends.

“Instead of playing with other kids on the playground during recess, he talked over dinner about running laps alone on the track.” You see, Trevor (referred to as T-Bone by his family) loves to run. And here’s the thing – Trevor runs fast. Really fast. So it wasn’t long before some of the other kids on the playground noticed.And after a couple of weeks, a few other boys from his class wandered over to the track wanting to know his secret. T-Bone’s response? Run with me. And they did.

The Marathon Kids Running Club at Hill Elementary is one of the most active in Austin. Every class runs ten minutes a day, every day, in order to reach their yearlong goal of 104.8 miles (the equivalent of four marathons). Students earn exclusive Nike rewards for each marathon they complete and learn along the way about healthy ways to fuel their bodies. Marathon Kids provided the perfect opportunity for Trevor and his newly formed running crew to get to know one another, to set goals together, to push each other when they felt like quitting and to high five each other for getting their next cool Nike reward.

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“They’ve somehow become this tight-knit group of buddies. They’ve all been over to the house and love hanging out,” Joy told us. And according to his father, Zach, Trevor’s ten year-old sister and six year-old brother have also started running.”

“We’ve seen an incredible change in his self confidence,” Zach told us. “In a year marked with so much change for Trevor, Marathon Kids has been his one daily constant. It’s allowed him to feel part of something bigger than himself.”
T-Bone’s crew has now grown to five boys, talking about running and class and homework as they lap the track together every day both at recess and their Marathon Kids running club session. So, how many miles have they run so far? T-Bone is currently on his 17th marathon (445 miles). The other boys are on their 12th – because of Trevor, who has become somewhat of a local celebrity around the once-unfamiliar halls of Hill Elementary. However, according to his parents, he seems to appreciate accomplishment a lot more than attention. When asked what he likes about Marathon Kids, Trevor’s answer was simple: “Running, my friends and cool Nike rewards. The shirt is my favorite because it shows everyone how far I ran.”

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Simple, fun and effective. That’s the Marathon Kids recipe threaded throughout the story of this extraordinary young runner. We believe, at our core, in the transformative power, the sense of community, the grit and the self-reliance that are results of running with Marathon Kids.

To learn more about the Marathon Kids movement, start a running club of your own, get your family running with us or make a gift to ensure kids like Trevor can continue finding their fast, enter your email in the upper left corner above to sign up for our newsletter.

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By Andy Uhler, Marketplace

Marathon Kids is a non-profit that started 20 years ago in Austin, Texas, and quickly spread statewide. The idea was to get kids to be more active through running. The company has just partnered with Nike to try to expand internationally.

The Marathon Kids office in Austin feels like a small, local non-profit. It doesn’t feel like one that inked a partnership deal with Nike. Nike teaming up with a nonprofit to get four- and five-year-old kids to start running seemed like a pretty simple idea: Nike wants to get its brand out to kids as early as possible. And the nonprofit would now be working with Nike-sized resources.

Susan McPherson, a corporate social responsibility consultant, explained it’s not that simple. “Partnerships are so complicated and take so much effort that, if they weren’t in it, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t do this,” she said. “There are a hell of a lot of other things that Nike could be throwing its money around.”

But it isn’t like Nike is giving these children shoes. After all, that’s not Marathon Kid’s mission. The non-profit goes into communities and schools to set up running clubs and leaves running them to the locals. Nike is taking Marathon Kids and turning it into a story, essentially through a good-looking flyer. Christine Pollei, executive director of Marathon Kids, said the partnership is about maximizing time and resources.

“Why wouldn’t we allow people who do this for a living – basically market and brand products and sell it – do that for us?” she said. “That’s their role and their job.”

Nike can make a play on the youth running market and muster some corporate goodwill. But it’s still Nike’s time and money. Caitlin Morris of Nike’s Global Impact team, said the Marathon Kids model is a good one.

“They just need the tools and a little bit of coaching to make it happen,” she said. “So we have a lot of respect for sort of the thoughtfulness they’ve put into the approach.”

Morris said Marathon Kids is acting a lot like a business by using data to build expansion models. People in the business world call it scalability. But Morris also recognizes that some people will question Nike’s motivation.

“Will there be some cynicism? Sure,” she said.

Susan McPherson said it’s fine to be skeptical of brands teaming up with non-profits. But if a company like Nike does it, it’s not on a whim.

“Somebody did due diligence to find out that this was a viable nonprofit that was doing good work,” she said.

Because if it wasn’t doing good work and Nike attached its brand, Nike would be the first to be called out.

Featured in: Marketplace Morning Report for Monday, November 6, 2015

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By Nike

“My favorite part of Marathon Kids is running!” — Audrey, age 11

Pounding heart. Sweat. Speed. Laughter. The joy of the run.

Running is as fun as it is challenging and fulfilling. On top of that, it’s a uniquely accessible sport with significant physical and psychological benefits that have the potential to last a lifetime. Each stride is a step toward improved health and wellbeing. Running is the foundation of every athlete’s journey.

We know that good habits start early in life. This is why Nike is proud to announce a new partnership with Marathon Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of children by providing them with the tools, motivation and support to live happier, healthier lifestyles. The Marathon Kids program engages kids in a positive, simple, goal-driven running program that challenges them to run the equivalent of up to four marathons (from 26.2 miles to 104.8 miles) over the course of a three-, six- or nine-month running club season or school year.

Active kids work and play better. They score up to 40% higher on tests and are 15% more likely to go to college. They also have increased concentration, better school attendance and behavior, healthier eating habits and a stronger sense of self than inactive kids. Research shows that inactive kids are more likely than active kids to grow up to be inactive adults, with significant health consequences.

The reality is that there’s a physical inactivity epidemic and Nike is committed to helping end it, starting with kids, by providing early, positive experiences with sport and physical activity. Partnering with Marathon Kids is a step (or mile!) in support of that effort. We know that most kids can walk at least one mile every 20 minutes. So this is a great way to make physical activity part of their future and give them the support necessary to get moving.

Together, Nike and Marathon Kids will reach over half a million kids across the country in the next two years. Kids will learn to embrace running, discover their athletic capabilities and find their love of movement, with the full support of Nike, Marathon Kids and their friends, families and coaches behind them. By rallying entire communities and neighborhoods around physical activity, this partnership has the power to change the way we make sport a part of our lives.

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“If you have a body, you’re an athlete,” says Jorge Casimiro, Vice President of Nike Global Community Impact. “The biggest takeaway we want the kids to get from this partnership with Marathon Kids is that they’re athletes, too. By helping kids fall in love with sport, we’re helping break the cycle of inactivity.”

Like Nike, Marathon Kids was founded by a runner who experienced firsthand the transformative impact of running. Marathon Kids began in 1995 in Austin, Texas, when the aforementioned runner, inspired by completing her own Runner’s World running log, wanted kids to experience that same inspiration and accomplishment. In the last year, more than a quarter of a million kids aged four to 12 have completed the Marathon Kids program, achieving incremental milestones to reach 26.2 miles over several months. This year, Nike and Marathon Kids are excited to introduce a new goal — for kids to reach the ‘four marathon,’ or 104.8-mile mark, over the course of the program — helping inspire kids to dream, and run, big.

In the nearly two decades since its founding, Marathon Kids has worked with schools, community groups and parents across the United States to support and empower kids to get active while having fun — tracking their miles, learning about healthy eating and coming together in a positive social environment.

The first 10 years of life are game-changing in terms of developing healthy habits. Dr. Harold W. Kohl, with The University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston School of Public Health and one of the lead researchers on Marathon Kids’ scientific advisory board, confirms that we, as a culture, are having trouble getting moving. And just as physical inactivity can lead to serious consequences, an active lifestyle early in life has profound effects on overall health and longevity.

“For years, kids have been told to sit down and be quiet,” he says. “Now the realization is that we may actually be hurting kids’ ability to learn and their test scores by making them sit and be quiet and not giving them physical activity breaks or incorporating programs such as Marathon Kids, and giving these kids the chance to be active.”

In partnering with Marathon Kids to motivate and inspire kids on their fitness journey, Nike will help create a stronger, healthier future. Participants will join Nike’s global community of athletes, receiving special product incentives for achieving marathon milestones. They will also experience personal support and encouragement from the whole team at Nike, including Nike volunteers within local Marathon Kids clubs and families.

“We want to be an intervention that changes the community, and the program offers kids the opportunity to actually change their entire perception about physical activity and running, in particular,” says Christine Pollei, Marathon Kids’ Executive Director.

“At the conclusion of the lifetime of their program, kids walk away feeling great, not just about themselves and their achievement, but about running. We love that.”

ABOUT MARATHON KIDS

Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking.