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Meador Elementary Students Learn to Love Running with Marathon Kids

By Catherine Morris

Coach Stephanie Bounds is proud to report that as of late October 2021, her students have run a cumulative total of more than 225 marathons since the start of the school year. That’s nearly 6,000 miles—an impressive total for a group of children ranging from five to 10 years old. “Our kids are awesome!” enthuses Bounds.

She is in her third year of teaching physical education at Meador Elementary, in southeast Houston. “I co-teach with a fabulous team—Malorie Ehrlich and our aide, Damon Schwerdtfeger. Our students call him Coach Damon, because that last name is a mouthful,” she says, with a laugh.

The school has 430 runners participating in Marathon Kids this year. “We have always done a running program,” says Bounds. “I love that we are a run district and promote that to our kids. I myself am a runner, so I want kids to find ways to enjoy it instead of hating it like most people do.”

To instill that love of running in her students, she says, “we offer mileage incentives to get them excited about earning more miles. This is our first year to use Marathon Kids. I like that it is a free resource for something we were paying for in the past.”

Marathon Kids is a free physical activity program for kids. Schools, organizations and even parents can implement the program and access its resources for free. This includes access to Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based platform that makes it simple and fun to track and report on kids’ active time.

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Teaching Kids the Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

Coach Bounds loves working with her students, who come from many different cultural backgrounds. “At school,” she says, “they all come together as one and support each other. And our kids are always ready for what we have prepared for them.”

Meador students participate in Marathon Kids from kindergarten through fourth grade. “We believe you are never too young to start living a healthy lifestyle,” Bounds says. “We show them how to do that through exercise with Marathon Kids.”

She and her teaching team have the students run once a week, “but we also do a running warm-up when they come into the gym on normal playing days. So we are constantly keeping them active, and also talking about and promoting a healthy lifestyle.”

“We believe you are never too young to start living a healthy lifestyle. We show them how to do that through exercise with Marathon Kids.”

Healthy Routines Help Set Healthy Habits for Life

All Meador students have their own Marathon Kids ID cards that Bounds and her team keep in pocket charts, organized by class. The teachers number both the pocket charts and the students’ cards, “to make it easy for the kids to match it if they forget it. The kids are really good at remembering their numbers, though.” They are used to the routine, and they look forward to it every day.

Each P.E. class begins with a three-minute warm-up jog around the gym. “At the beginning of the year,” says Bounds, “they couldn't run the whole time, but now a lot of them can. Some still choose to walk, but we encourage them to just be moving.” Though portions of class time are devoted to health lessons on topics like bones and muscles, Bounds says, “we don't sit for very long in our gym!”

This is all in keeping with the Marathon Kids program, which challenges kids to run or walk (or even skip!) a cumulative total of four marathons over the course of a school year. The focus is on keeping kids moving and teaching them they can achieve more than they ever thought possible, one step at a time.

Meador Elementary has a quarter-mile track outside the gym that the students use to earn miles “as quickly as possible” on their weekly running days. “The students are responsible for scanning their own cards after every lap,” Bounds says. “We have an iPad and sometimes a phone to scan on.” Bounds and her co-teachers also manually add miles each week to account for the students’ warm-up laps that they complete at the start of class each day.

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Marathon Kids Connect Makes It Fun and Simple to Track Kids’ Physically Active Time

Bounds has found it easy to work with Marathon Kids Connect. “I love that the app syncs the data directly to the online platform and updates their miles,” she says.

Charting progress and celebrating milestones with student runners are an important part of keeping them motivated and engaged with the program. “We pass out toe tokens to our students for certain mile markers,” Coach Bounds says. “The kids wear their tokens on their run card necklaces, and they get to take them home at the end of the year.”

Though it’s often hot in Houston, the weather is usually decent for running. “A lot of our kids love to be outside to run,” Bounds says, “so I am thankful we have good weather even though it is hot.” Still, like all runners, the students sometimes have to push through flagging motivation. “When our kids feel unmotivated, they usually stop and walk with a friend, or I will run with them to get them back moving.”

Bounds says she, her co-teachers and their students all enjoy using the Marathon Kids program. “The kids love scanning their cards by themselves,” she says, “and they love knowing how much more they have to do till they get their next shoe tag. They are very motivated to get their next one.”

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Your donation not only supports Marathon Kids programming but it’s how we ultimately give back to our coaches. Together, we can provide coaches with free, first-class technology and tools that enhance kids’ experience on the track, field, and gym. We also give coaches access to professional development, social and emotional learning resources, and on-demand support.

Your dollars support the future of Marathon Kids and keep our programming free and accessible to all coaches and kids. Now, more than ever, kids need the mental health benefits of regular walking and running. So help us invest in the health and wellness of kids in all of our communities by honoring our coaches!