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More Than 1,000,000 Miles and Still Running

By MK Editor, May 23, 2021

Our 25th anniversary season is complete! This year Marathon Kids ran nearly 1.5 million miles together—the equivalent of 56,684 cumulative marathons. Another way to look at it? This season, Marathon Kids spent 30 million minutes doing heart-pumping physical activity that helped increase their health, fitness and longevity. Considering the Marathon Kids mission of setting kids on the path to healthier lives through running, that’s a win for everyone!

Over 92,000 kids actively participated in the Marathon Kids program during the 2020–2021 season, in 597 clubs across 42 states. The national mileage leaders—kids at Yarbrough Elementary in Midland, Texas; at Garden Park Elementary in Brownsville, Texas; and at Crab Orchard Elementary in Crab Orchard, Tennessee—set the standard for their peers across the country.

Most of all, every Marathon Kid in every club in America pursued their running goals against the backdrop of a pandemic that changed their schooling and physical education routines for much of the run club season. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment. Research shows that physical activity has numerous benefits related not just to physical health, but to mental and emotional health as well. In a year when kids were isolated from their peers and subject to unprecedented anxiety, the Marathon Kids program became more important than ever to kids who were managing stress and depression.

Virtual Run Clubs Brought Kids and Families Together

Virtual run clubs popped up around the country, and kids, coaches and parents alike found that running brought people together—even when they had to run solo. Megan Fisher coached the Dickerson Virtual Run Club 2020. “We heard from parents that it was so great for their children to stay connected and get motivation for daily activity while stuck at home,” she says. “I loved receiving emails from parents that their children were joining them on their morning runs or completing more miles as a family!”

Isaac Zertuche, who coaches the Marathon Kids run club at Yarbrough Elementary—one of the top three mileage leaders of the season—also saw his students’ virtual running help the whole family stay connected. “Students were able to get their parents and grandparents involved,” he says. “The entire household was getting healthier.”

Amber Graziano, coach of the Freiler Run Club, reports a similar experience: “I had one family thank me for having run club through Covid, when all other sports were cancelled. It was really great for that family to get outside and spend quality time together, and to have something fun to look forward to again!”

Many Marathon Kids coaches included a social-emotional learning component in their run clubs. “We created a running journal for youths to enter how they felt during their run and what they enjoyed most about being active,” says Mariah Newmeyer, who coaches the Hamilton County Marathon Kids run club. “Many of the youths' entries focused on how they were able to be active with their family members and enjoyed that time together.”

Physical Exercise Improves Mental Health

Walking and running are always beneficial for mental health, not just during a stressful global event like a pandemic. Tess Bragg, coach of the Galloway Runners, has a student with ADHD and autism who gains tangible benefits from running. “He loves to run,” says Bragg, “and shared with me that it helps him calm down and relax in the classroom. He said, ‘I could run forever!’—followed by a celebratory dance. He loves to dance!”


Setting running goals and celebrating milestones are key aspects of Marathon Kids programming, and they help kids gain a sense of confidence and accomplishment. Kevin McCann, coach of Club 2021, says, “I have seen tremendous growth from our more shy or withdrawn students. I have seen great social growth, increased confidence, and the development of friendships.” Krista Bond, who coaches the Lions 20/21 run club, agrees: “Kids who feel unseen find themselves leading the classroom in miles.”

Despite its challenges, the 2020–2021 running season was a success for Marathon Kids across the country. To learn how far some Marathon Kids ran and see their pride in their accomplishments, click here to watch a quick, inspiring video.

Thanks to everyone involved in Marathon Kids for an incredible and memorable running season!