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Students in Louisiana’s Ascension Parish Love Their Marathon Kids Mileage Club

By Catherine Morris

“My students call me Coach Freeman or Mrs. Freeman,” says Keli Freeman, “but I even answer to, ‘Hey, Mrs. P.E. Teacher!’”

Freeman’s love for her students is apparent. A physical education teacher at Bullion Primary School in Ascension Parish, which is part of the greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana, metropolitan area, she has taught in the parish for 21 years. She has been at Bullion since it opened three years ago.

“I have always had my students participate in some type of running program,” she says. “It is important to instill healthy habits and encourage kids to get and stay active.”

Before discovering Marathon Kids, Freeman had tried using other running programs with her classes, but found that “they were very expensive. Marathon Kids was a great option for our P.E. program, being that we are a new school with limited funding.” (The Marathon Kids program is free for schools, community organizations and even parents to implement. It is for all children, of all backgrounds and abilities.)


Coach Freeman has 580 students ranging from kindergarten through fifth-grade, and all participate in Marathon Kids. Though Bullion Primary is a new school, Freeman’s students are familiar with the program from their previous schools in the parish.

At Bullion, they complete a Mileage Club Run every Thursday, completing 15 to 20 minutes of running outside. Freeman encourages her students to run or jog but lets them know walking is okay, too. The Marathon Kids program challenges kids to run or walk—or even skip!—four cumulative marathons over the course of a season, one step at a time. The program also counts 20 minutes of heart-pumping activity as equivalent to a mile.

“My students love our running days,” she says. “They are highly motivated to run and earn prizes for miles. They are constantly setting goals, and they work hard to reach them.”


“We are a primary school with no track or gym,” Freeman says, “so we run around the basketball pavilion area.” Twelve laps equal a mile; Freeman’s students average a mile to a mile and a half each class period.

“My students love our running days,” she says. “They are highly motivated to run and earn prizes for miles. They are constantly setting goals, and they work hard to reach them.”


Marathon Kids Connect Makes Tracking Kids’ Active Time a Breeze

Before each run, Coach Freeman passes out runner ID cards to her students and sets up two iPads with the Marathon Kids Connect app so students can scan their cards after each lap. The app gathers and organizes the data instantly—no Wi-Fi necessary—so Freeman can easily review it later with her class. “Each student records the number of miles he or she ran in a mileage log,” she says. “They use the logs to see their progress and set future goals.”

Goal-setting is a big part of the Marathon Kids program, and also a big part of motivating kids to get and stay active. And it’s easy with Marathon Kids Connect, a free, cloud-based platform that makes tracking and reporting on kids’ physical activity both fun and simple. The app was designed with physical educators in mind, and it is frequently updated to make it as effortless as possible for coaches and teachers as well as parents and volunteers to use.

“The new front camera feature is very user-friendly,” says Coach Freeman of the app. “I also like that you can go into the software program and adjust a student’s mileage information.” For every two miles her students complete, she rewards them with shoe tags; they also earn special prizes for reaching half-marathon and marathon milestones.


The Marathon Kids Program Teaches Kids to Push Through Challenges

Bullion’s Mileage Club season was paused temporarily when Hurricane Ida hit the Louisiana coast in late August, but Freeman’s student runners didn’t let the pause slow them down. Currently, she says, her biggest challenge is having so many classes with such a small amount of space for the students to run. “My largest class can be up to 40 students,” she says. “And this is combined with my coworker who also participates in Mileage Club.”

As far as motivating her students to keep going, even when the going gets tough, Freeman cites the power of steady progress and celebrating milestones. “Students are motivated to run when they are rewarded and when they see progress,” she says. “I reward them with certificates from the Marathon Kids Connect app, shoe tags, and recognition of top runners for the week, month and year.”

Setting goals and working toward them one step and one day at a time is also a big part of keeping kids moving. “Students set goals before every run,” says Coach Freeman, “and try to increase their laps each week. When students struggle, I reiterate that effort means more than performance. Students focus on individual goal-setting, and I encourage them not to compare themselves to the rest of the class.”

Still, a bit of friendly competition can go a long way, and Freeman’s methods are working. “My students love to see their progress as they run from week to week,” she says. “They are highly motivated by shoe tags and being the top runner.”

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