At Brightmont Academy, a private school serving six through 12th grades located in the Issaquah/Sammamish suburbs of Seattle, Washington, there is a Marathon Kids club with only five members. The runners, who are all in high school, meet for 30 minutes each school day with their coach, Brightmont teacher John Kernan. Together, the group runs, walks, bikes, lifts weights, or performs a combination of these activities to build health and accumulate miles.
“We have an extensive trail system adjacent to our school in the Cascade Mountain range,” says Coach Kernan. “We have had our club for over two years. During that time, we have run, walked and biked over 2,300 miles together. We have virtually traveled from Seattle to LA to Denver, and we’re now on our way to Austin!”
Running Helps Students Manage Stress And Other Special Needs
Students at Brightmont, a unique national school with locations in several states, deal with depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, health issues and other special needs. The school’s educational model is based on one-to-one instruction—one teacher working with one student—in order to customize learning for each student’s individual needs, thereby increasing both engagement and motivation.
Coach Kernan has coached track for over 40 years at all levels, including U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes; he is also a longtime special and physical education teacher. He first encountered Marathon Kids at the 2017 Prefontaine Classic Track Meet in Eugene, Oregon. “I have conducted research on learning and physical activity,” he says, “and I am a strong proponent of daily physical activity for students of all ages.”
He reports that Brightmont teachers see a significant difference when their students run or exercise during the school day. “Most of our students have various needs and issues that need addressing, and we can see results through this club.”
Miles Can Be Logged Both Indoors And Outdoors
Coach Kernan monitors the area’s variable weather conditions so that students can bike or lift weight indoors during inclement weather. He utilizes Marathon Kids warm-ups and games as well as other running workouts, and charts all the run club students’ mileage himself. “We can get between two and eight bike miles per day,” he says. In the club’s first year together, the student runners and participating staff members logged nearly 400 miles as a group, and their collective mileage has vastly increased since then.
In fall 2019, Coach Kernan nominated 10th-grader Titu Prabhu for Marathon Kid of the Month. Prabhu’s motto is inspiring: “Running is Fun; Get Going!” Coach Kernan points out that the run club “helps students get active, set goals, get involved with their communities, track their miles and do better in their academics”—a win–win for everyone in the Brightmont community.
Coach Kernan recommends the Marathon Kids program to any teacher or coach who wants to get involved. “I have been running myself for over 50 years. I believe very strongly in the program and its ability to get children moving.”