At Marathon Kids, we’re all about getting kids moving, both in school and at home. So, we were thrilled to partner with Austin Active Kids on a guide full of active, outdoor experiences in Central Texas that families can enjoy together.
All ads on the Austin Active Kids website, and in their guides, benefit Marathon Kids, putting more kids on the path to a healthy and active life! If you’re interested in advertising in one of the upcoming guides, please email email@example.com or visit the website’s Advertising page for more information.
In 1995, an Austin public relations consultant and avid runner set out to bring her love of movement to a younger generation. Now 25 years later, Marathon Kids founder Kay Morris is both humbled and awestruck by the impact her creation has had on so many young lives. “It still feels unreal,” she said.
The idea began when she heard media reports about increasing rates of childhood obesity along with decreasing physical activity. She learned that American children were running considerably less than their global peers.
A magazine article about a teacher who created a “run around the world in increments” program helped clarify Morris’ vision: she believed young kids would enjoy running a marathon in the same gradual way. Morris created a chart where kids could color in every quarter-mile and track their progress until they completed the whole 26.2-mile course months later. The idea was simple and straightforward. Since it rewarded completion, not speed, it was an endurance race that everyone could win.
“One thing I’ve learned as a runner is that it’s not just about muscular well-being, it’s about psychological well-being,” she said. “I thought this feeling that ‘I’m vivacious and I can do something!’ would adapt well to children. So I took what was beautiful to me about running and adapted it to young people.”
Once the seed of the idea was planted, Morris reached out to Austin ISD and their PE teachers, who embraced the idea with gusto. She teamed up with Paul Carrozza, owner of local running store RunTex, who became Marathon Kids’ first sponsor.
It was important to Morris that they capture the imagination of children of all skills, shapes and backgrounds.
That first year, Morris expected about 200 elementary kids to join. More than 1,600 signed up.
“It was the elementary school PE teachers who built this program with me. I drove all around to each of their schools in my little Honda Civic,” she said. “There were no texts, nobody using emails. Honestly the fax machine was almost always broken. It was an adventure!”
In addition to inspiring individual students, her team of supporters wanted to build up the entire community, so they planned kick-off events and finisher celebrations, giving kids free T-shirts, medals and the opportunities to meet professional and Olympic athletes.
“The key was to keep it simple and to celebrate in a joyful, colorful, inexpensive way,” Morris said. “I wanted university track & field venues to host the celebrations because it’s so important that children of all income levels get to be on a college campus. Just being on a campus with their parents can ignite their dreams of higher education.”
Expanding the Dream
Morris soon realized that her simple Austin prototype could be easily expanded to other cities. With the help of corporate sponsorships, Marathon Kids hired a small staff and began thinking big. Volunteer ambassadors would travel from city to city to present their mission and set up free programs. “Our first year in Austin, we had 1,600 participants. When I left Marathon Kids in 2012, we were in major cities across the country and there were 275,000 Marathon Kids.”
Today, Marathon Kids serves kids in all 50 states—and now with the virtual program, parents can support their kids’ physical activity goals during periods of remote learning. Morris has been thrilled to see everything her small idea ignited, but she refuses to take all the credit.
“Never do I have a sense of ‘I did this!’ It was truly a step-by-step journey with teachers, sponsors and eventually staff. I’m most proud that we decided to keep the program free. I’m proud that Marathon Kids has good bones and has endured. I’m proud of all the people who came forward for these children.”
And when asked how she feels to know how many young lives she impacted? “I confess when I see little children running with their parents, I have a little light shine inside for them, hoping maybe our efforts will carry them through a lifetime of vitality.”
Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking.
Drake Muyinza is revolutionizing the running industry. During the 2020 Austin Marathon, Muyinza broke the Guinness World Record for the longest fashion runway by running 26.2 miles and changing outfits every four miles. He demonstrated courage, determination, and reminded all of us how to find joy in running. His commitment and dedication to the sport and community have only grown since the marathon.
It’s never been easy for Drake Muyinza to run. Muyinza shared his inner dialogue as he runs. “As a black man, I’m afraid to run. I’m afraid of what they might think. Why is that black man running? I’m afraid of what they might see What is he running from? As a black man, I’m thinking too much.”
For a long time, Muyinza feared that he did not belong to the running community because no one looked like him on the trail. He was anxious to run because he did not want someone to think he was running from a crime. This is why Muyinza began to find solace in the fashion industry. He began to dress up on his runs to make it clear that he was just running and not suspicious.
With the recent light brought to the prejudices the black community faces, Muyinza decided it was time to stand up for the black kids. Muyinza is passionate about running because for him, “it’s therapeutic” and he wants all kids to be able to experience that release.
Buy a Mile
Muyinza started a “Buy a Mile” campaign to bring awareness to the everyday fear and anxiety that comes with being a black man and going on a run. For every $10 donated, Muyinza ran 1 mile and donated all of the proceeds to Marathon Kids. He believes in the Marathon Kids’ mission to get all kids active, to welcome every kid no matter their background, and show them the joy of running. Muyinza truly is inspiring the next generation to get active, but also to show compassion, empathy, and kindness towards those that need it most. Muyinza’s goal is to reach $2,000 or 200 miles run for Marathon Kids. As of today, he has run a little over 100 miles and has raised $1,500 in support of Marathon Kids programming. The “Buy a Mile” campaign will run until the end of July, by which time Muyinza hopes to have met his fundraising goal and have run all 200 miles.
Don’t miss Austin’s largest outdoor game festival in September 2020
For Immediate Release: 1/15/2020
AUSTIN, TX – On the afternoon of Saturday, September 26, 2020, companies, collegiate teams, social athletic clubs, and families will gather at Circuit of the Americas for a challenge like Austin’s never seen before—the first annual TAG! Level Up event, benefiting Marathon Kids. Expect a festival atmosphere at this extraordinary game day, featuring themed tag arenas for adult teams, a kids’ zone for families, music and games, food, and drinks, and more. With tag games for competition and recreation, people of all ages and fitness levels are stepping up to the challenge.
Each TAG! arena will have its own game facilitators as well as themed games and prizes. Attendees can register as individuals or teams and jump in a game or two—or compete all afternoon! Simply want to cheer on the teams from the sidelines? You can also register as a spectator and enjoy all the event has to offer without breaking a sweat…at least, not much of one. It is Austin, after all!
Heads-up, companies and corporations! TAG! Level Up offers myriad opportunities for businesses and corporations to get involved—starting with companies seeking a unique team-building experience. TAG! arenas can host up to 100 players at a time, and your coworkers will love running, shouting, diving, evading, and accessing their inner kid together. Sign up as a corporate team and compete together!
We are also seeking vendors who’d like to set up a booth to display their products and services in front of two thousand-plus people. Special prices are available for nonprofits as well as for tables in the open pavilion.
Want to sponsor this Austin original event? Join sponsors Whole Foods Market, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka in supporting Austin kids! All proceeds from TAG! Level Up will benefit Marathon Kids, inspiring kids to Level Up and be healthy and active for life. Sponsorships range from $1,000 to $50,000, and sponsors will receive benefits such as branding opportunities at the event—including entrance, obstacle and perimeter signage—as well as DJ announcements and speaking opportunities. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Calling all volunteers! Volunteers are invited to come help out at TAG! and be a part of an incredible community with the goal of setting kids on the path toward a healthy, active lifestyle!
About Marathon Kids: Founded in Austin in 1995, Marathon Kids is a nonprofit organization that seeks to get kids active and keep them active for life. With coach-led run clubs in schools across the country, including 81 elementary schools across Austin ISD, we provide fun running experiences for kids, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities. We have transformed the lives of 2.5 million children so far by showing them they can achieve more than they ever thought possible through daily physical activity. Find out more at MarathonKids.org and Taglevelup.com.
Attention, Austin area Marathon Kids! Did you know you could be building up your miles, earning stamps on your mileage log for run club credit, and even winning cool prizes, just by attending fun weekend social runs? We’re talking about Austin 10K’r events—free social runs hosted by the staff of the Capitol 10,000, held Saturday mornings for the next couple of months leading up to the big race.
The Statesman Capitol 10,000—or as most Austinites dub it, the Cap10K—is the largest 10K race in the state of Texas. Designed to complement Cap10K runners’ race training, the Austin 10K’r runs are free and open to the public. That means you don’t have to be in training for the Cap10K, or any 10K race, to attend an Austin 10K’r event. In fact, you don’t even have to run; all Austin 10K’r events are both run- and walk-friendly.
All you have to do to get the most out of these free events is RSVP beforehand on Eventbrite (so the event hosts can plan their supplies), and then show up, go at your own pace and enjoy the pride of doing something fun that’s also great for your health.
Special Routes and Stamps for Marathon Kids
Runners who are active with Marathon Kids at their school can collect a Cap10K Armadillo participation stamp on their mileage logs for each Austin 10K’r run they participate in, to bring back to their run club coaches for mileage credit. Each Austin 10K’r event will also have a Marathon Kids family one-mile route and map for those who don’t want to cover the full mileage.
A representative from Marathon Kids will be present at each
Austin 10K’r event to give high-fives and hand out ’Dillo Stamps. The more
events you attend and stamps you collect, the more prizes you can win,
including a Marathon Kids training tee shirt, a Marathon Kids drawstring bag,
or even a $25 Nike gift card. Wow! (Please note that prizes are not guaranteed;
they will be available in limited quantities and awarded on a first-come,
first-served basis at the final run at the end of March.)
What’s the Next Austin 10K’r Route and Theme?
The next Austin 10K’r will be the Moonlight Tower Run on Saturday, February 1. Runners will meet at the Austin American-Statesman’s main warehouse, on South Congress Avenue just south of the river, for a pre-run stretch at 7:50 a.m. The group will leave at 8:10 a.m. on a route that passes three of the city’s remaining moonlight towers, which have been a special and beloved part of the local skyline since the 1890s.
Complimentary refreshments will be available before and after the run, including Clif Bars, hot chocolate and Dasani bottled water; participants can also stick around for some post-run group stretches. Be sure to check the Feb. 1 event page for special travel and parking instructions.
Most, but not all, of the Austin 10K’r runs will begin and end at the Statesman offices, and parking for the runs is always free. The runs vary in distance each weekend from three to six miles, and all are self-guided as well as self-paced. Run themes and locations vary from week to week; the Valentine’s-themed run on Saturday, February 8, for example, will meet up at the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Pflugerville and snake through the Falcon Pointe neighborhood. Check out the full schedule on the Austin 10K’r site, and always be sure to RSVP in advance as well as check the individual event pages for any special instructions regarding road closures or weather advisory information.
Larry Chauvin has taught PE for the past eight years at Casis Elementary School in Austin, Texas. He has also been a Marathon Kids coach at Casis for 15 years, ever since he began working there as a classroom teacher. “I am lucky enough to teach in a district that supports Marathon Kids in all elementary schools,” he says, “so we are proud members of Austin ISD.”
love of running began when he started teaching at Casis. “I was someone who was active,” he
says, “but I considered being active as doing a few push-ups at night. A parent
at my school invited me out for a jog, and three miles later, I was in pain and
had no idea what I was doing.”
A week later, the same parent invited Coach Larry on
another run, this time for four miles. Soon, he started to enjoy running and
the challenge of meeting new distance and time goals. Over time, he dropped 30
pounds, changed his diet and started running 5K and 10K races. Now, he says, “I
have ten marathons under my belt! It was such a change for me, and really
helped me on my path to change from a classroom teacher to a PE teacher.”
BEING ACTIVE IS A WAY OF LIFE AT CASIS
At Casis, Coach Larry says, “running and being healthy
and active is our way of life. Students love to walk or bike to school, we
always allow for brain breaks and recess time, families participate in fun
runs, and we know the importance of a healthy diet. We also know having a sweet
or two is okay. Moderation is the key!”
His Marathon Kids run club, called the Casis Running Club, has about 350 runners ranging from kindergarteners to fifth-graders. As part of the district’s wellness initiative, Casis students run with their classroom teachers for ten minutes each school day. Some teachers print out logs for each student and have them track their own miles, while others keep a classroom log. Most classrooms run their 10 minutes on days when they don’t have PE, but some teachers love running laps as a brain break and make sure to get their classes outside daily.
MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE
Coach Larry was a classroom teacher for his first seven
years at Casis, before switching over to teaching Physical Education. “As a
classroom teacher, it was my job to keep track of students’ miles. Now, as a PE
teacher, I get to be in charge of the entire campus completing their Marathon
Kids log and living an active lifestyle.” In ten minutes of jogging, he says, typically
60% of the class will complete a full mile.
“Movement is medicine” is one of his favorite mantras. “Students
love to run at my school,” he says, “and Marathon Kids has really helped
encourage this excitement.” The students find intrinsic motivation in their run
club, and Coach Larry and the other Casis teachers also find ways to keep the
children engaged. “Most kids are running to beat their old times, but we also
recognize our top three runners from each grade level during our fun run week.”
In order to keep things fresh and fun for everyone
throughout the run club season, he says, “We really focus on pacing so the
running can stay consistent and enjoyable. We also encourage kids to run with a
buddy at a conversational pace to keep them motivated to finish. And if needed,
it’s okay to walk!”
MARATHON KIDS OFFERS BENEFITS FOR EVERYONE
Coach Larry has definitely seen benefits for himself since
becoming a Marathon Kids coach, as well as for his students and his colleagues
at Casis. “I always enjoy running with the kiddos, and it’s great for them to
see people they look up to running, too! Teachers also notice a better focus
after running their ten minutes on the track.”
His advice for anyone who is considering starting a Marathon Kids run club or becoming a coach? “Do it! Don’t be afraid to ask for help with donations or even creating a Gofundme to make it happen on your campus. Fitness and wellness goals should be part of your campus goals, and Marathon Kids will help you exceed any of those goals.”
ABOUT MARATHON KIDS
Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking.
It was not your normal Friday morning in Pflugerville, Texas.
A group of children and their families, teachers and coaches had gathered at Pflugerville Elementary School, just north of Austin, to run laps around the track—but that wasn’t the unusual part. These community walks are a regular monthly event at the school, as part of Coach Lydia Salaiz’s school-wide Marathon Kids running club. Coach Salaiz plays music at these gatherings—familiar Kidz Bop tunes that boom out over the track—and uses a megaphone to call out encouragement to the kids.
“My principal supports me one-hundred-percent wholeheartedly,” she says. “She lets us have these community walks during class time once a month, and we love to invite all the community, so we get parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles—everyone’s out here! It’s just wonderful.”
It was wonderful, but that wasn’t the unusual part, either. The unusual part was the fact that reporters from local news station KXAN had also gathered to cover the event, as—even more unusual still—Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross had come to run with the kids.
It was International Women’s Day, and Ms. Richards-Ross—gold medalist in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, member of the Marathon Kids board, and new mom to an 18-month-old baby boy—had come to support and inspire the children. The first group she ran with was girls only.
“I want to inspire girls to fall in love with running,” Richards-Ross says, “because of how they drop out of sports by age eleven to fourteen. No one really knows why that is, but I want to encourage girls to stay in sports.” She points out that girls are two times less likely than boys to be active. “From being part of Marathon Kids, and from my own experience, I’ve learned that being active makes you a better person. It makes you a better student; it gets your brain working. I think most people can attest to that—you don’t want to go to the gym, but after you go, you feel so good about yourself. Kids who experience that at a young age are much more likely to continue that active lifestyle throughout their lives. And as a female athlete, I want to inspire girls to stay active.”
One 10-year-old Pflugerville Elementary student, Aubrey, made it her New Year’s resolution to be the first girl in the school to finish a complete marathon. When the students finish their first marathon, they get to enter their names on the Finishers Chart posted in the gym. Instead of being the first girl to enter her name on the chart, Aubrey was the first finisher overall, among both boys and girls—an accomplishment that inspired her to keep going and aiming high. “I love filling in all the bubbles,” she said, referring to the mileage logs that every student at the school fills out themselves, “and I like to be first!” About having Ms. Richards-Ross visit the school, she said, “It’s really encouraging and exciting!”
Another little girl, Izzy, also 10 years old, shared that she loves Marathon Kids “because you can be free, and it’s really fun to run!”
Either of these girls might be a future Olympic champion one day, judging by their ambition and sentiments that match those of Ms. Richards-Ross, who began running at age seven. “I felt like I was born to run,” Richards-Ross says, “and I always felt like I was most free when I was on the track. It was my place of peace and meditation, so I think there is something very freeing about running.”
Along with inspiring girls to stay active, she also has a special passion for inspiring minority children to run. She points out that many minority kids “never think about running a marathon. To be able to say, ‘Hey, with this program, you can run 400 meters a day’—which is my specialty—and it can add up to a full marathon, I think we will have a lot more young people and minorities who will think about tackling a marathon. I hope to inspire young people who might not have thought about running as a potential route to finding their best selves.”
Coach Salaiz agrees that running and staying active help children become their best selves. Along with Assistant Coach Cindy Lucero, she leads her students in group pushups and sit-ups as part of their Marathon Kids training. This regimen gets a thumbs-up from Sanya Richards-Ross, who also engaged in stretching and strength-training drills as a child in order to run with good form.
Pflugerville Elementary has just over 530 students in Kindergarten through 5th grade, and the entire school participates in Marathon Kids. Coach Salaiz says the school was labeled Title I this year; many students come from lower-SES backgrounds, and plenty have working parents with limited time for shuttling their children to sports events or play dates. This is part of the reason behind the monthly community walks; Coach Salaiz started them in hopes that parents would join their children in developing fun, healthy habits together.
Family support is also an essential component to success for Richards-Ross, who credits her father with being her biggest supporter and inspiration. Both Richards-Ross and Coach Salaiz recognize the struggles that modern families must work against. “We’re fighting against so many things,” says Richards-Ross, “like social media, gaming, all these things that keep us sedentary—so I just want kids to know that running can be a vital part of their lives, and it’s fun, and they should all want to do it!”
Buy-in does not seem to be an issue among the students at Pflugerville Elementary. Emily, seven, says she loves Marathon Kids because she loves to run and also loves to catch up and play with her friends. Watching the students run, walk and skip around the track, it’s clear that many must share Emily’s feelings. The students are laughing, talking and even singing as they move their bodies, and the adults by their side are listening, smiling and talking as well.
During this particular community walk, Ms. Richards-Ross ran with the kindergarteners. They did a mini relay race together, and Richards-Ross chanted “We’re gonna kill it!” in a silly singsong voice with the children, smiling ear to ear as she tapped her brightly colored plastic relay stick against theirs. Tall and rangy, she towered over the kindergarteners, so she crouched down to meet them at their level as she gave out encouragement and tips. One little girl ran in cheetah-print leggings and a black tutu, and could not stop bouncing on her toes and grinning excitedly up at the Olympic champion in their midst.
“What I really love about running,” says Richards-Ross, “is that there is no barrier to it. If you have a body, you can go out and run. You don’t have to have money or special gear or anything; you can just grab a pair of sneakers and go. So I love that about this sport, and track and field in particular.”
She says she is transitioning out of sports, and serving on the board of Marathon Kids is one way of staying connected with that world and making sure children carry on the torch, so to speak. “I feel like I have a different perspective on the importance of being active and participating in sports,” she says. “If it weren’t for sports, I wouldn’t have traveled the world; I wouldn’t have had all these amazing experiences. So I am excited to be able to share that with other young people.”
Coach Salaiz has the same hope for her Marathon Kids running club at Pflugerville Elementary. She’s been involved with Marathon Kids for 24 years; “My own children grew up doing it,” she says. “Now they’re all in college, and it’s just been a phenomenal thing. And I just hope I instill that love of healthy living in these children as they get older.”
In preparation for The Statesman Capitol 10,000—the largest 10K in Texas—Austinites are invited to join a series of free Austin 10K’r social fun runs. Make plans to attend one, or all nine, but we think the Austin 10K’r on February 2, in particular, is not to be missed. That’s when Olympic Champion Sanya Richards-Ross will be in attendance to kick things off, take photos with fans, and sign autographs.
Sanya Richards-Ross began running competitively when she was seven years old. Since then, she has become the world’s most accomplished 400-meter runner and one of only two American women to ever win Olympic gold in the individual 400-meter race. This year, Richards-Ross joined the Marathon Kids Board of Directors and was named the Cap10K Race Ambassador for 2019.
Saturday, February 2, 2019
For your chance to meet Sanya Richards-Ross, attend the free 10K’r on February 2, 2019. Meet in the West Lot of the Austin American-Statesman (305 South Congress) at 8 a.m. for free refreshments, a welcome from Richards-Ross and a one-, three-, or six-mile run, walk, skip, or stroll. This free event will be fun for the whole family!
Family Fun at 10K’r Events
Each Austin 10K’r social event will have its own Marathon Kids family one-mile route and map. Marathon Kids can earn a special edition armadillo half-mile or one-mile achievement stamp in their training log for participating. As an added bonus, Marathon Kids staff will award prizes to kids for their accomplishments. So, start your training and collect those stamps!
Earn Marathon Kids Prizes
Participating Marathon Kids are invited to start collecting stamps at the free Austin 10K’r events, to earn these special prizes:
Prizes can be claimed when attending the final Austin 10K’r social run on Saturday, March 30, 2019, from 8-10 a.m. Marathon Kids staff will be onsite at the Austin American-Statesman to review training logs and distribute prizes. (Prizes are not guaranteed; quantities are limited and will be awarded on first-come, first-serve basis.)
Austin 10K’r Schedule
Austin 10K’r events will take place from January through March, leading up to the Cap10K in April. You can find the complete schedule of free events on the Cap10K website. We hope to see you there!