Memorial Elementary School Students Build Endurance and a Foundation for a Healthy Life
By Catherine Morris
Coach Karen Wright is a PE teacher at Memorial Elementary School in New Braunfels Independent School District. Nestled just north of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country, New Braunfels is a growing small town with German and Tejano roots. An active community, it has two beautiful rivers running through it—the Comal and the Guadalupe—as well as easy access to other popular waterways nearby. Swimming, tubing and boating are all favorite pastimes for both residents and visitors to the area.
“A lot of my students are involved in sports activities outside of school,” Coach Wright says. “Several have parents that are also in groups like CrossFit or Camp Gladiator.” With such a strong local culture of being physically active, it typically isn’t hard for Wright to motivate her students to run. It’s even easier when using tools, techniques and resources from Marathon Kids.
Seven of New Braunfels ISD’s nine elementary schools are participating in Marathon Kids this school year. As of early December 2021, the district’s 1,297 participating students have conquered 7,614 miles together. That’s an inspiring cumulative total of 291 marathons and 152,777 active minutes since August—and counting!
Coach Wright has used Marathon Kids with her classes for the past 16 years. “Before teaching in New Braunfels,” she says, “I worked for another district that participated with Marathon Kids as well.” She sees Marathon Kids as “a great activity that gets our kids outside and moving while socializing with classmates. My students like to be on the track, especially now that they can see their laps increase as they are working.”
Marathon Kids Builds a Community
At Memorial Elementary, Marathon Kids is a schoolwide undertaking. “Our school has really embraced the program,” Wright says. “Our principal and other staff members are on board.” The school’s music and art teachers even come to the gym twice a week to help facilitate the students’ Marathon Kids running.
“Having a quick and easy outside activity really helps divide up larger classes,” Wright says. “Kids get time to play a game and conquer laps.” Tracking those laps is a cinch with Marathon Kids Connect, the free digital platform that makes it fun and simple to track kids’ active time. “It’s easy to use,” Wright says, “and our kids love it, too!”
Wright and her colleagues use Marathon Kids Connect to track the students’ mileage. “Every student has their own Runner ID card, and for every lap they complete, we scan their QR code to capture their effort. The scanning is AWESOME.” Sometimes Wright or another teacher will enter students’ progress manually, which she says is also an easy process.
Marathon Kids is “a great activity that gets our kids outside and moving while socializing with classmates. My students like to be on the track, especially now that they can see their laps increase as they are working.”
Building Progress Builds Motivation
“I did a FitnessGram PACER pretest in September,” Coach Wright says, “before getting into Marathon Kids. We retested in late October. Eighty percent of our students increased their scores by one or more laps! Their endurance is growing.”
Seeing her kids’ progress is gratifying for her as a coach, and it also motivates her students to keep pushing toward new milestones. “I have noticed that my students are more motivated to listen to how I am trying to teach them about running. They want to run more miles. It’s become a healthy competition!”
Still, Wright encourages her students to run or walk at their own pace. “It’s up to our kids as far as how many laps they complete.” Most of her students typically cover a mile during their 15-minute running sessions. “I have a few avid runners in fourth and fifth grades, and a couple in second,” who often run farther in the same time frame, she says.
Teaching Good Running Form Helps Kids Stick with the Sport
Wright focuses on running form and technique with her students. “Physical activity is important because it gives us an outlet to reduce stress,” she says. “It can also be an enjoyable accomplishment, when kids are taught how to run correctly.”
As a former half-marathoner, Wright is personally familiar with the challenges and benefits of running. “I talk to my students about hitting ‘the wall.’ I describe the feelings, the pain, and then knocking the wall down—the feeling of accomplishment it brings. I talk to them about ‘side stitches’ and how awful it feels, but explain what it is and how to change your breathing to make it better and eventually go away.”
As a big proponent of running in general and specifically the Marathon Kids program, Wright encourages other PE teachers to “JUST DO IT!”—to start utilizing Marathon Kids with their students. Marathon Kids is for kids of all abilities and backgrounds, and Wright emphasizes that “it helps ALL kids. They see how many times they scanned their card in a 15-minute period and set new goals for themselves, to get at least one more lap in the next time. It’s pretty awesome!”
Make Marathon Kids Your School's Running Partner