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Pullen Elementary Students Love to Hit the Track with Family and Friends

By Catherine Morris

“Marathon Kids is a good balance between fitness, friendship, and family involvement,” says Tim Bankston. For him, running is best when it’s not done solo, but rather with the whole family involved—or better yet, the whole community.

As a PE teacher at Pullen Elementary School in Rockwall, Texas, a small city just east of Dallas, Bankston is always looking out for great gym activities for elementary students. When he learned about Marathon Kids, he knew it fit the bill. “From a young age, I always enjoyed exercising,” he says. “I started running 15 years ago and quickly realized the benefits.” He was excited to start a running program with his students.

Bankston always invites his students’ parents to come out and support their Marathon Kids by running or walking along with them, or just encouraging them from the sidelines. “I usually have about 20 to 30 parents show up each week,” he says. “It is a perfect mix of school, exercise, and quality time with your family.”

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It Takes a Community to Help Kids Find Their Inner Athlete

Over 100 runners participate in Bankston’s Marathon Kids club each week, from kindergarteners through sixth-graders. Every Friday morning, they meet up at the middle school track that is connected to Pullen Elementary to run for 45 minutes. Most cover two to four miles in that time.

“We are lucky to have a track next to the school,” Bankston says. “And the kids really look forward to Friday mornings! I am very impressed at how many families show up to run, walk, or just cheer on their runner. The parents are supportive and do a great job of encouraging their child to go the extra mile.”

Bankston uses Marathon Kids Connect to scan his students’ QR codes, which immediately and automatically tracks their distances. He has volunteer scanning support from his students’ parents as well as some middle-school students who also come to help out.

“Being able to come in after running club and instantly print reports for each class, and get mileage totals for the day, month or year, has been so helpful,” Bankston says. “I use the software to be able to quickly get students’ mileage totals to help recognize and reward them.”

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The Importance of Motivation in Developing a Love of Running

The Marathon Kids program encourages kids to cover four full marathons—104.8 miles—over the course of the school year, one step and one mile at a time. For Bankston, recognizing his students’ accomplishments is a big part of helping them develop a lifelong love of running.

“The kids get excited to reach marathon milestones throughout the year,” he says. “I just make sure I keep recognizing them for the extra work they put in at running club. I recognize the top runners each week on the school announcements, and have a top runners wall in the gym.”

He also gives out rewards for certain milestones to help the students stay motivated. “This year,” he says, “I gave out water bottles to third- through sixth-grade students when they reached a marathon. For kindergarteners through third-graders, I gave out marathon tee-shirts.” He also gives the younger students foot charms to add to their bracelets for every 20 laps they cover on the outdoor track.

At the awards ceremony at the end of the school year, Bankston says, “I give marathon medals to all kids who reach marathon milestones.”

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Marathon Kids Supports the Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community

Bankston’s students love their tangible rewards, but they also keep each other excited about running. “The kids compete against each other to be top runners of the week and get their name called on the morning announcements,” Bankston says. “They are good at motivating their friends at running club to get in an extra lap before the time is up.”

Bankston believes Marathon Kids would make a great addition to any teacher’s PE lesson plans for elementary or middle school. “If you don’t have a running club,” he says, “Marathon Kids is a great way to get students active.”

Best of all, the positive benefits aren’t only for the kids. Bankston has seen the ripple effect they can have, which can extend to the whole community. “I am just so impressed by how many families are on the track, running or walking as the sun rises.”

Make Marathon Kids Your School's Running Partner