P.E. Teacher and Coach Raul Muñoz’s Students Learn Resilience Through Marathon Kids
By MK Editor, October 26, 2021
Coach Raul Muñoz is a longtime Physical Education teacher in Corpus Christi ISD. The district is now in its fifth year of using Marathon Kids, and for the first time this year, Coach Muñoz is using Marathon Kids Connect for Districts—our cloud-based physical activity tracking and reporting platform.
Coach Muñoz teaches at George Evans Elementary, where 240 students in Pre-K through fifth grade are currently participating in Marathon Kids. “Prior to Marathon Kids,” Muñoz says, “I only had a handful of motivated runners in each grade level. With Marathon Kids and the easy ability to keep track of their miles, students have become more competitive and eager to run. This is fantastic because I now have students who avoided running asking me if they can run extra laps.”
Muñoz credits his entire school community with embracing the Marathon Kids program. “During recess, teachers encourage their students to run. Some teachers choose to use the QR Codes, while others send me the data through email.”
Using Marathon Kids Connect to Instill in Kids the Love of Running
The QR Codes Muñoz refers to are located on his students’ individual Marathon Kids ID cards. Kids can easily scan their own cards through the Marathon Kids Connect scanning app as they run laps, or a teacher, coach or volunteer can scan the cards for them. The cards are just one way that Marathon Kids Connect makes it quick and simple to keep track of kids’ running progress.
“In the past,” Muñoz says, “I only did Marathon Kids with my running club. However, having all our students auto-rostered through the district technology partnership with Marathon Kids made it very easy for me to get started and include the entire school. No need to worry about updating rosters or keeping up with students who are no longer attending our school.”
With Marathon Kids, running laps isn’t the only way for kids to rack up miles. The program also counts 20 minutes of any heart-pumping physical activity as equivalent to a mile. “We record our miles from students running the FitnessGram PACER test,” Muñoz says, “and also from playing heart-pumping activities during P.E. We also get miles from running laps during recess. In addition, we have a tennis and swim program at our campus, where students also get miles.”
Muñoz scans his tennis players’ and swimmers’ QR Codes to enter their miles into the app, and has developed his own method for logging the rest of his students’ miles: “At the end of each P.E. class, I record a message on my phone stating the date, class and miles. I then have the kids say their names as they walk past me, heading back to class as a way to track attendance. During my lunch time and after school, I enter their miles. It doesn’t take me much time at all.”
Marathon Kids Motivates Kids to Get Moving
The Marathon Kids program encourages kids to run a cumulative total of four marathons, or 104.8 miles, over the course of the school year. Coach Muñoz’s students average a half-mile of running each school day. But as both educators and parents know, it can be tough to get kids excited about physical activity.
“Keeping the kids motivated to move has been an ongoing challenge,” says Coach Muñoz, “and Marathon Kids has been a great help.” He uses friendly competition between classes and grade levels to keep student enthusiasm high. “I inform each of my classes how close they are to passing the next grade level on the leader board. This motivates them to try to pass the grade level in front of them or maintain their lead.”
These days, his students “are constantly asking me if they can run laps. They are trying very hard to beat their siblings in other grade levels. My enrollment in my after-school swimming and tennis program has increased because students want to get what we call Bonus Miles—each week, tennis players earn a half-mile, while our swimmers earn 1.5 miles. Students who participate in these programs see the miles adding up and are hungry for more.”
Muñoz celebrates with his students when they hit new milestones. “I recognize the top runners each month by grade level during our morning announcements.” This keeps them engaged and inspires them to continue challenging themselves.
Marathon Kids Benefits All Students
Though Muñoz has seen benefits from Marathon Kids for all of his students, he cites one student in particular, a fifth-grader who first enrolled in the district in Fall 2021. “Prior to arriving to our campus,” Muñoz says, “she did not participate in physical fitness activities.” During the pandemic, this student was even less active at home. “Having Marathon Kids on our campus has been one component in her trying to improve not only her health, but also her mind.”
Just two months into school, her efforts are already paying off. “She has seen an increase in her health and her ability to do well in her education while attending school in person,” Muñoz says. “Although she is not a big fan of running, she does run to help her classmates compete with the other grade levels.”
Here are just a few of the things this student has told Coach Muñoz about running:
“Even though I am not a good runner, I have seen an improvement in my running. Sometimes I choose to run during recess.“
“I have definitely seen a difference in my education. When I am struggling with something in class, I think about the time I kept running and pushed myself to finish running without stopping, and my body felt alive.”
“I remind myself not to quit and keep going…I can do this.”
Anyone Can Start a Marathon Kids Run Club
“Personally,” says Coach Muñoz, “I myself have begun to run more” since implementing the Marathon Kids program with his students. “I try to lead by example and run alongside struggling runners, sharing with them that all of us need to stay active.”
For other coaches and classroom teachers who are considering using the Marathon Kids program with their students, Muñoz suggests starting with just two grade levels. “Have them challenge one another,” he says. “You should quickly notice the competitiveness and see more motivated runners.”
The same concept can be used by parents who want to use Marathon Kids to get their kids moving. Setting up goals and friendly challenges can motivate even reluctant runners to give it their best effort.