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Bradley Elementary Students Build Physical Fitness and Intrinsic Motivation

By Catherine Morris

“I am big on intrinsic motivation,” says Daniel Enriquez. “My students take pride every time they reach a marathon.”

Enriquez teaches physical education at Bradley Elementary School, in San Bernardino, California, where his students and fellow staff members call him Mr. E. He has 470 student runners in his Marathon Kids club this school year. So far, they have covered more than 421 marathons together—over 11,000 miles and counting.

When he first learned about Marathon Kids, Mr. E wanted to start implementing the program “because it is something all students can participate in, work at their own pace, and set their own goals.” These are important elements at Bradley Elementary, a Title I school where the majority of students come from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds. Most of Mr. E’s students are Hispanic, some have disabilities, and some speak little to no English.

Moving their bodies is something all of them can do, each at their own pace. The Marathon Kids program was designed to help kids of all abilities find their inner athlete, and it’s helping Mr. E’s students do just that. “The students here love to participate in Physical Education,” he says, “and they understand the importance of exercising to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

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A Supportive Community Helps Kids Develop a Love for Physical Exercise

The Bradley school community as a whole is strongly supportive of their kids’ education, including physical education. “Many of my students have strong parental involvement,” says Mr. E, “parents who are ready to assist the school in any way if need be. We have a strong community with the teachers and parents, and are always keeping in constant communication with them.”

Mr. E’s Marathon Kids runners range from kindergarteners through sixth-graders. The 2021–22 school year was their first full school year back in the classroom since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the transition has not been without challenges.

“I have noticed that many of my students have had a huge decrease in their physical fitness,” Mr. E says, “as though they were not being as active at home as they used to be. This has caused quite a challenge in regards to administering certain lessons.”

Still, Mr. E keeps his students moving, gradually rebuilding their endurance—both physical and mental. “This club has impacted my school greatly,” he says, “as I see many students participating when they were sedentary prior to the program. Moreover, some students have already showed interest in joining track and field when they are in middle school.”

Unlocking Athletic Potential, One Mile at a Time

There are two different tracks at Bradley Elementary for students to use. On both laps, seven laps equal one mile. “My students participate in the run club every single day,” Mr. E says. “I have seen some students run one to two miles per day. We also perform a heart-pumping activity on inclement weather days.”

The Marathon Kids program counts 20 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity as equivalent to running or walking one mile. Coaches can log students’ laps automatically by scanning their ID cards with Marathon Kids Connect, the free, cloud-based platform that makes it fun and simple to track and report on kids’ active time. Coaches can also log heart-pumping activities manually by entering their students’ active minutes.

Mr. E devotes 15 minutes of his lunch breaks on Tuesdays through Fridays to any students who want to run during their recess period. Classroom teachers at Bradley also help their students cover more miles by logging their distances or active minutes done during class time in Marathon Kids Connect.

“The staff here loves the fact that this run club is a way to get their students outside for a brain break, which has been shown to improve their overall focus and attention,” says Mr. E. “The teachers log their own class miles by scanning the student badges every time they reach one lap. It is a fun option for teachers to use that provides students with extra physical activity, which in turn will decrease classroom behaviors.”

Using Marathon Kids Connect and Incentives to Boost Motivation

Mr. E uses the Marathon Kids Connect app not only to scan his students’ miles, but also to generate reports and stay on top of leaderboards. “This allows me to hand out incentives to students who reach their milestones,” he says. “The reports section is the most valuable to me because it allows me to check the progress of my runners, which in turn assists when handing out incentives.”

These incentives are part of keeping his students motivated to continue pushing toward new milestones. “I feel the incentives assist in ensuring students do not get bored,” says Mr. E, “because they are working hard to reach their goals.”

For every 25 miles a student covers, he or she receives a reward like a pencil, water bottle, medal or tee-shirt. “I give a shout-out to the top three classes with the most miles every Friday during afternoon announcements,” Mr. E adds. “I also announce any student who reaches the 100-mile mark, and I am offering the top two classes with the most miles an end-of-the-year pizza party.”

“This club has impacted my school greatly,” he says, “as I see many students participating when they were sedentary prior to the program. Moreover, some students have already showed interest in joining track and field when they are in middle school.”

Making Physical Activity a Lifestyle

For Mr. E, physical activity is important “because it provides us with many benefits that can improve our overall health. It also sets the tone for our future generations to become lifelong fitness lovers.” He enjoys modeling his own love of staying active for his students. “My Marathon Kids participants seem excited to run, many of them spending their lunch recess to add laps to their badge. The parents are pleased to know when their student reaches a milestone, and they express gratitude towards the program.”

One of Mr. E’s students has reached the 100-miles mark and is pushing for more. “I spoke to his teacher,” he says, “and she said his parents expressed to her that the run club is all he talks about. He currently has the most miles in the entire school and runs during every recess. He has expressed a big interest in joining cross country when he is in middle or high school.”

Mr. E believes other coaches and teachers should use the Marathon Kids program “because it allows students to work towards something at their own pace. It empowers students to know they have accomplished something so grand, like running over 100 miles in the school year.”

Make Marathon Kids Your School's Running Partner