Dr. Kelly Featherston teaches Physical Education at Kimball Elementary School and coaches the school’s Marathon Kids run club. With fewer than 200 students, Kimball Elementary School’s motto—“Small but Mighty”—makes a lot of sense. Located in Mesquite, Texas, a close-knit community east of Dallas, the school is decidedly small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in heart.
“In a typical year,” she says, “we have a weekly running club, and we run once a week in PE. But due to COVID, no clubs are allowed.” Still, she says, though the pandemic has changed many things in the past year, “thankfully, we can still run outside and log our miles in class.”
Dr. Featherston enlists student help to keep the run club going smoothly. “I have fourth-grade students who help put out our big cones to mark our track on Tuesday mornings, and then a few fifth-graders who pick up the cones after school.” The students enjoy helping out with facilitating the run club. “It’s something simple,” Dr. Featherston says, “but it’s a fun part of our Tuesday run days. And let’s be honest, we all need some fun this year!”
A Community that Prioritizes Health and Physical Activity
Kimball students are growing up in a community that values physical activity and outdoor time. The city of Mesquite is not large, yet it has more than 75 parks as well as multiple recreation facilities. In fact, each year from 2013 through 2016, Mesquite was honored with Playful City USA designations.
Playful City USA was a recognition program for municipalities that ensure kids in their communities, particularly kids from low-income families, get the active playtime they need to thrive. The program ended in 2017, but Mesquite continues to prioritize its residents’ health and fitness.
Marathon Kids Run Club Is About Fun and Free Choice
For Dr. Featherston, coaching a Marathon Kids run club is a natural way to enhance her students’ physical education. “I love Marathon Kids,” she says. “It’s an easy way to track and recognize kids who are working hard!”
Marathon Kids offers a free cloud-based physical-activity tracking and reporting platform called Marathon Kids Connect. It is available to teachers, coaches, and other individuals who want to start a run club or use Marathon Kids programming.
Dr. Featherston describes her students as “very competitive. Many of them will come to class and ask me how many laps or miles their sibling ran in the class before.” Five laps around the Kimball track equal a mile, and many of her students will also ask her for the top lap number for the day, so they can try to beat it.
Featherston emphasizes fun and free choice in her Marathon Kids run club. “Once their lap goal is met for the day,” she says, “the kids have the option of playing basketball, soccer or another sport. But many of them choose to keep running!”
Thanks to generous support from H-E-B, Marathon Kids’ physical activity programming is available and free to all Texas schools, like Kimball Elementary School.