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Are you familiar with Marathon Kids Connect, our all-new, completely FREE physical activity tracking app and reporting platform? We think all PE teachers and run club coaches should be, since we designed it with you and your student runners in mind, to make mileage and physical activity tracking and reporting a breeze! It bridges the gap between school and home, enabling students to continue working toward their physical activity goals even during periods of distance-learning.

The app and reporting platform are completely FREE. Registering for Marathon Kids Connect will give you access to free lesson plans and run club resources, enable you to effectively track students’ physical activity, and help you gather important data to support Physical Education and active minutes to meet mandates. To get started, simply create a free account!

USING MARATHON KIDS CONNECT TO CREATE A SAFE DISTANCE RUN CLUB

Kids can continue running together, gaining the benefits of community and accountability, while staying safe and healthy in a Safe Distance Run Club – a Marathon Kids club that prioritizes everyone’s wellbeing with safe, socially distant runs and best practices for good health.

The Marathon Kids Connect app makes hands-free lap-tracking a breeze: Coaches can download the app to their smartphones or tablets and set up a self-scan station where students scan their runner ID cards as they run past – no popsicle sticks, paper and pen or Wi-Fi needed. (The manual data entry feature is also still available for coaches who prefer it!)

Parents can also record miles their kids cover at home and submit the data through the platform for coach approval.

HELPING PE TEACHERS KEEP ADMINS IN THE LOOP

Daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is incredibly important for kids’ health and wellbeing – not just physical, but mental and emotional as well. This has never been truer than now, since the spread of COVID-19 and all the uncertainty it has brought to families across the country. Kids need consistent physical activity and Marathon Kids Connect helps coaches show school administrators the difference they are making in keeping students active.

Our app and reporting platform make reporting a snap and allow you to share up-to-date impact dashboards with your school principal and other key stakeholders to demonstrate your runners’ progress and the importance of your running program.

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. 

GET YOUR SCHOOL STARTED

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Hailey Walker’s last name is ironic, considering that she prefers running to walking. “I always wanted to run. I thought it was fun to run, plus I could get where I wanted to go faster than if I walked.” Eleven years old and in fifth grade at West Lenoir Elementary in Lenoir, North Carolina, Hailey has been a runner since she was very young, but she didn’t start tracking her mileage until her PE teacher, Coach Abee, told the class about Marathon Kids.

Sharon Abee has taught PE for 24 years and has been involved with Marathon Kids for two. “I felt like this program would help my students get in better shape,” she says, “and help them set goals and reach them, improve overall school behavior, and allow them to make new friends.”

When school is in session, the West Lenoir run club students run every morning from 7:20 until 8:00 a.m., when they head in to start their school day. “My students have PE every day,” says Coach Abee, “so they also run at the beginning of every class. We try to average three-quarters of a mile a day. With 180 school days, that puts you on track to finish all four marathons”—the standard Marathon Kids goal for student runners to cover in one school year.

Once a week, Coach Abee says, “we have a running day on the track, so students can catch up and stay focused on completing 104.8 miles”—the cumulative total of those four marathons. Some students wind up exceeding the four-marathon goal. Hailey, a natural and dedicated runner, loves running so much that she left that goal in the dust months ago.

Setting a Goal to Beat Another Marathon Kid’s Incredible Record

Two years ago, a Texas third-grader named Kelbie Black became the top Marathon Kids runner in the country when she covered over 550 miles during the 2017–2018 school year. When Coach Abee learned about Kelbie’s incredible accomplishment, she asked Hailey if she was interested in trying to exceed it. “Of course, she said YES!”

For Hailey, beating Kelbie’s record wasn’t about personal glory. It was about showing herself and others that dedication gets results. “I wanted to show other kids my age that you can do it. If you work hard, then you can accomplish anything.”

With her coach’s help, she set a goal of running 600 miles before the end of the school year. “Hailey and I sat down and did the math on how many miles a week she would need to break Kelbie’s record,” says Coach Abee. “She looked at the runners’ report that I printed every morning, so she always knew how many miles she had and if she was on track.”

“When my mom would drop me off at school in the mornings,” Hailey says, “I would go to the gym, put my stuff away and get my scan card, and head out to the track to run until I had to go in to school. I would usually get in at least two or three miles in the morning, sometimes more, and I’d get to do more laps on days the teachers took us outside. Mrs. Abee would scan my card; it would keep track of what I ran for that day.”

With Distance Learning, Run Club Shifted from School to Home

Then the global pandemic hit, and schools across the country closed, including West Lenoir Elementary in mid-March. Hailey had to shift to logging her miles alone, at home. “My goal that I had set for myself was 600 miles,” she says, “but I didn’t quite make it before they had us doing school at home. But I am proud of the miles I did accomplish, and I am wearing my Fitbit at home to keep track of my miles to get there.”

Coach Abee wasn’t worried about her student reaching her goal. “Hailey has perfect running form, and running seems effortless for her. She is also one of the most driven students that I have had the pleasure of coaching. I never had to push her or remind her what she needed to do in order to break the record. She took it upon herself to ask me where she was and how many miles a day she needed to reach her goal.”

When Hailey started logging miles from home, Coach Abee worked with her student’s parents to keep track of her progress. “Hailey’s dad used GPS to measure a track at their house. She is now close to 700 miles. She has been using a Fitbit and sending me her daily activities.”

That’s right—Hailey broke Kelbie’s record at the end of April, and she’s kept on going since. And her “new normal,” including distance learning and running on her homemade track, doesn’t seem to have thrown her off much. “I’ve enjoyed getting to spend more time with my family and getting to play outside longer,” she says. “Staying at home has not changed anything for me because I’m still running as much, if not more. I think my speed has picked up.”

She is already looking ahead to next year and beyond, and is seeking new ways to challenge herself. “When I go to middle school, I want to join track, and I have been told by many of my teachers that I need to do long-distance runs.”

Staying Motivated Is Simple: Just Keep Going

Running isn’t always easy, even for naturals like Hailey. When asked what she does to stay motivated on the tougher days, her response is simple: “Sometimes it does get hard, but I just keep going. I enjoy running because it keeps me active and healthy. There’s nothing I dislike about running.”

On those tough running days, Coach Abee has some savvy advice for her students that can be applied to many areas of life, not just physical fitness. “I tell them that setting and reaching a goal is not meant to be easy—that it is supposed to challenge them. I have also told them that when they reach that goal and look back at the work that it took to get there, they are going to be extremely proud of themselves.” She also shares her own experience with and love of running, showing her students inspirational videos and telling them stories about what running has meant to her over the years.

Staying active has helped Coach Abee adjust to her own “new normal” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Along with teaching online classes full-time every weekday, she’s been prioritizing exercise even more than she did before. “I think many of my students have been outside more, too,” she says. “COVID-19 has people outside exercising with their families. I’m happy about that!”

She’s encouraged her students to keep up with their mileage from home by logging it on an assignment she set up specifically for her Marathon Kids runners. She’s also following her own advice. “I have kept my sanity by going to the local greenway every day and either walk/running or riding my bike. It is the highlight of my day every day since the stay-at-home order went into effect.”

The Numerous Benefits of Exercise: Feeling Good in Body and Mind

Hailey and Coach Abee are of twin minds about the benefits of exercise. “Physical activity is important to me because I want to have a healthy lifestyle and stay fit,” Hailey says. As for Coach Abee, “I know that the more I move and stay active, the better I feel. I want to be running, hiking and biking until I am a very old lady.”

Coach Abee has seen significant positive changes in her students due to their Marathon Kids running. “All of my students’ confidence levels have soared, and their overall school behavior has improved,” Abee says. “Recess now has a purpose. I feel as a teacher that Marathon Kids has enhanced my PE program tremendously. My students are setting goals and reaching them!”

As for Hailey? “She has become so much more confident in herself,” Abee says. “She is so humble about her accomplishment, and she encourages her classmates. She is going to do something great in life!”

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. 


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When PE teacher Rene Hernandez ran his first 5K, something clicked. “I loved the feeling of being able to complete the run, and I knew I had kids who would love to start running.” He’d always known the importance of staying healthy; as a physical education teacher, he says, “I have always loved being outdoors, and I know that if we have our health, we have everything. I preach it every day to my kids.”

He knew he wanted his students at Augusto Guerra Elementary in Alamo, Texas to experience the same sense of accomplishment he’d felt upon crossing that 5K finish line. An internet search of running clubs in Texas turned up Marathon Kids, and the Guerra Marathon Club was born. The run club, made up of 60 student runners ranging in age from eight to 11 years old, met for an hour after school three days a week, before Texas schools closed for the year. “My running club is for kids of all abilities and teaches them to live an active lifestyle,” says Coach Hernandez. The runners met in a large field and typically covered one to two miles together per session, using the Marathon Kids Connect digital lap tracking app to track their miles.

The Guerra Marathon Club was sponsored by beloved Texas-based grocery store chain H-E-B. At Guerra, says Coach Hernandez, “We serve a majority of low-income kids who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise to join a run club. Many of these kids love exercise; they just needed a willing adult to coach them.”

Providing a Positive Push

Now that they’ve experienced the structure, inspiration and community that comes with participating in a run club, many of Coach Hernandez’s students have fully committed to being active and challenging themselves to push further with their running skills. “Many of my marathon club members have joined local 5Ks and placed at the races, so they are lifelong runners now.”

But while those milestones and successes help bolster the students’ commitment to getting regular physical exercise, any runner knows it’s not always easy to get outside and stay motivated. When running gets tough for his students, Coach Hernandez says, “We always lead by example to make sure they know it’s going to get better for them.”

Run Clubs Create a Safe Space for All Participants

One of the most important things about the Guerra Marathon Club is the safe space and community that it provides for the students. “Our club offers kids of all levels a place to call home and be themselves,” says Coach Hernandez. “Many kids have been scouted by high schools through their running talent.”

He’s also seen personal benefits since starting the run club at his school, including drawing energy and motivation from his students. “Sometimes, after a tiring day, seeing my students motivated and excited to run makes me feel great and excited for the running session.” For other teachers who are considering coaching a Marathon Kids run club, Coach Hernandez says, “It’s well worth it and very rewarding to see the positive impact the club will have on the kids and their families.”

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Team building activities aren’t just for corporate groups. Teamwork is an important life skill for people of all ages. Any teacher knows that a school is a community, and so is a class. Even students who aren’t active in sports benefit from team building games for kids that develop their abilities to listen and communicate carefully, follow directions, strategize with classmates and build a sense of trust in one another, thereby building a stronger community together. Students are better off when they know each other well and have ample opportunities to learn how to work together, rely on each other and pitch in toward a common goal.

Enter team building games for kids. The following five games and activities are perfect for helping students develop empathy, learn to value each other’s skills, make space for each other’s vulnerabilities and cheer each other on—plus, they’re just a whole lot of fun. Game on!

Team Building Games for Kids

Hand Over the Hula Hoop

This activity can be done in groups of eight to 10 students with one hula hoop per group, or as a whole class with two or more hoops in rotation. Have the students form a circle and place a hula hoop around one student’s arm; then all the students in the circle should join hands. The students must devise ways to pass the hula hoop from one arm and body to the next without ever breaking the circle. Ideally, by the end of the game, each hula hoop should have made its way around the entire circle without anyone dropping hands. This game brings out the belly laughs, but it’s more than just silly fun; it also builds kids’ listening and strategizing skills while enabling them to move and wiggle their bodies in some fun and unique ways.

Minefield

Use masking tape to mark off a square or rectangular shape on the floor that is large enough to hold eight to 10 students at once, along with multiple, randomly placed X shapes (also made with tape on the floor) and multiple soft, squeaky items (such as dog toys). The X shapes are mines. To start the game, eight to 10 students should put on blindfolds and step just inside the rectangle, lining up together on one side. To play the game, the students standing outside the rectangle will call out verbal instructions to their classmates to help them navigate safely to the other side without stepping outside the taped boundary or onto a mine. When students do accidentally step on mines, their classmates must let them know, so they can freeze until another student inadvertently steps on a squeaky item. The squeaking sound signals that all frozen students are released to move again. This game helps students develop their listening and communication skills along with their ability to trust and rely on one another.

Word Leap

This fun and simple game is easy to set up, and it helps children get to know themselves as well as one another better. It also helps them learn to express their own opinions quickly and freely while learning to accept that everyone is entitled to their own perspective. Finally, it’s a plyometrics-based game that develops kids’ muscles and gross motor skills. To set up the game, lay out two ropes parallel to one another, two to three feet apart, and have the children line up between the ropes. The teacher calls out word pairs, such as dog/cat, spaghetti/salad, movies/video games, and so on. The first word will always be associated with one rope, and the second word with the other. The children must choose which word or concept they prefer, and jump as quickly as possible to the corresponding side of the rope.

Blindfolded Obstacle Course

For this activity, divide students into groups of four or five and give each group a blindfold. Students will take turns wearing the blindfold while the other members of their group give them verbal directions to help them navigate an obstacle course. The course should be constructed with play mats, piles of foam blocks and other soft items so it’s safe for kids who might bump into parts of it or even take a tumble. If the play space and obstacle course are large enough to accommodate multiple groups at once, this can be structured as a timed, competitive activity. Otherwise, groups can take turns and cheer each other on as the blindfolded students make their way to the finish line. This activity teaches kids about clear communication and the value of patience, along with their ability to listen closely and follow directions.

Human Words

This game lets kids get active and use their bodies in a fun way that keeps them laughing, while teaching them how to strategize and work together toward a shared goal. Depending on class size, this can be done in smaller groups or as a whole class. The teacher calls out words, one at a time, for the students to spell out together by forming the letter shapes with their bodies. Multiple students can work together to form just one letter; for example, if the teacher calls out the word “Hello,” two students might form the O together by facing one another with their toes touching, bodies leaned back and curved toward one another, and arms outstretched and curved overhead to join hands. Teachers with Smartphones or digital cameras can add to the fun by taking pictures of each completed letter or word, so the kids can delight in their creations and also improve on them in the next round.

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. 

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Amanda De Leon Garcia first learned about Marathon Kids through a fellow coach, when she saw his run club at a 5K. As a P.E. coach at Santos Livas Elementary in Alamo, Texas, she already knew that physical, emotional and mental health were important to her. “Physical activity is important to me for life health,” she says. “Being physically active is known to add years to your life, and can help with emotional and mental health as well.” When she learned these factors were central to what Marathon Kids is all about, she knew she wanted to start a Marathon Kids run club of her own.

Alamo, Texas—not to be confused with the Alamo—is a small town at the southernmost tip of the state in the Rio Grande Valley. The area is rich with vegetable farms and citrus groves, yet, even being surrounded by fresh produce, the students of Santos Livas still need guidance about healthy lifestyle choices. “Students need to learn how to find something they love,” says Coach De Leon Garcia, “something they can look forward to and be active at the same time.”

The run club at Santos Livas is the Lions Running Club, with 60 students participating, ranging from Pre-K students to fifth-graders. The Lions meet once a week after school and also run during P.E. times on free Fridays—and they definitely stay active: “We try to average two miles every time we meet,” says Coach De Leon Garcia, “and we compete in 5Ks.” She and her colleague Coach Porras Garcia work together to track miles using Marathon Kids Connect, the new digital lap-tracking app that was launched at the start of the 2019–2020 run club season.

RUNNERS WITH DETERMINATION, AND WITH HEART

“Each of my students has their own attitude towards running club,” says Coach De Leon Garcia. “Most are determined and competitive about getting their miles in, while others just enjoy the run while laughing with friends.” The one thing they all have in common? “They love to go to running club! They all love to scan their bar codes and check how many more laps they need.”

The Marathon Kids method—working toward completing four full marathons, or a total of 104.8 miles, over the course of the school year, one mile at a time—helps students build engagement and motivation at their own pace. Breaking it down into small increments makes it manageable for runners of all ages and at any fitness level.

Coach De Leon Garcia’s students work together to reach their milestones, and the older kids help the younger ones to finish what they’ve set out to do each time they meet. “They set the behavior standards very well,” Coach says, “knowing they represent a club. I have some fifth-graders who will do an extra lap or two with my Pre-Ks just because they want them to finish.” Being in a mixed-age club is teaching everyone about mutual respect and what it means to be a valued member of a community.

TACKLING CHALLENGES WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR, AND REAPING THE BENEFITS

Coach De Leon Garcia’s sense of humor is clear when she talks about how her run club manages difficult moments out on the track. “I’m that coach that is constantly calling out their names and yelling motivational things,” she says. “When it gets hard, I like to challenge them, or I join them. I always tell them—if my old lady self can run, so can you. And they leave me behind, thinking, ‘This old lady better not beat me!’”

She’s seen plenty of benefits from the run club, for both her students and herself. “The benefits I’ve seen for my students have been in their diet changes and their leadership role in the school,” she says. “My students have been cutting out junk food and sugary drinks since they started running club. They love to talk about healthy food choices and meals as well as help others.”

Children learn by example, and Coach De Leon Garcia is setting a good one. “I’ve seen great benefits as in challenging myself to run half-marathons and make better food choices,” she says. “I like to set the example for my students and remind them to be physically active, to inspire them.”

As for anyone who is where she once was—wondering what it might be like to start a Marathon Kids run club—here’s what she has to say: “You have to love what you do and who you do it for. Once you have those two things down, Marathon Kids run club is golden.”

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. 

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Coach Jessica Kessel was familiar with Marathon Kids well before she wound up starting a run club. As a P.E. teacher at Copperfield Elementary in Converse, Texas, she’d attended physical education conferences for years and spoken there with Marathon Kids representatives, but she didn’t have the funds to pay for the program to come to her school. When she received an email inviting her to apply for a grant to start a run club, she knew her students would love being Marathon Kids.

Every year, the elementary schools in the Judson Independent School District hold a track and field meet for fourth- and fifth-graders. “This is a huge deal for our students” at Copperfield, Coach Kessel says. “They get to run on the track where our high school state champions run.” Copperfield students come from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, and “range from kids who have never participated in a sport to kids who have tried out but not stuck with any particular sport, and finally to kids who are athletes and members of various teams.”

Receiving the Marathon Kids grant opened up even more opportunities for Coach Kessel’s students to train.“What has surprised me the most is how many of our students have never been a part of a club or team. This is a true treat for them.”

COPPERFIELD STUDENTS WERE READY FOR A RUN CLUB

Copperfield Elementary is in the process of building a track. When it is complete, all of the school’s 700-plus students will participate in Marathon Kids at least once a week, during P.E. class. For now, nearly 100 students in third, fourth and fifth grades are active in the Bobcat Roadrunners run club. They meet for a half-hour in the mornings before school—third-graders on Mondays, fourth-graders on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and fifth-graders on Wednesdays and Fridays—and typically run between one and two miles per session.

The group has taken advantage of the Marathon Kids Connect app, the digital lap-tracking app, in order to make it easier than ever for Marathon Kids and their coaches to track miles. Coach Kessel monitors her runners while they jog and uses iPads to scan their Marathon Kids Connect ID cards.

Initially, she says, the run club was more of a social gathering than an athletic endeavor, but soon the students began taking it more seriously. “Now they compete to see their scores rise and compare their scores with others, so it is beginning to develop a competitiveness that they lacked at the beginning.” She’s been surprised to find that participation hasn’t dropped off. Instead, it’s only increased as the weeks have gone by, proving her initial instinct correct—that Copperfield students were more than ready for a Marathon Kids run club.

THE STUDENTS KEEP EACH OTHER GOING

Runners of all ages and experience levels know that running has its easy days and its tough ones. When the going gets tough for the Bobcat Roadrunners, Coach Kessel encourages the students who are highly motivated to work with those who are less motivated and help them keep moving. “They seem to respond to peer assistance,” she says of her students, “and don’t require much redirection from coaches.”

Physical activity is important to Coach Kessel on several levels. “This is our business and our passion,” she says. She works out “religiously,” and her students respect the fact that she practices what she preaches.

COACHING A MARATHON KIDS RUN CLUB IS BOTH FUN AND GRATIFYING

There are plenty of benefits in Marathon Kids for everyone involved, starting with the students. Coach Kessel has seen significant boosts in self-esteem in her Marathon Kids runners, stemming not only from the pride that comes from developing their athletic skills and reaching milestones, but also the sense of belonging that comes from being part of the club.

As for herself, before starting the Bobcat Roadrunners, Coach Kessel wasn’t sure how much of a challenge it would be to head up the run club. She’s been relieved to find it hasn’t been a chore; in fact, it has turned out to be something she appreciates. “Teaching the kids how to compete without pressure and that life is a competition” through building their mileage one mile at a time—these, she has found to be unexpected joys.

For others who are thinking of starting a Marathon Kids run club or becoming a coach, Coach Kessel gives two enthusiastic thumbs up. “For coaches, there’s pride in seeing that something you do is working. I would highly endorse pursuing this program because [other run club coaches] will be surprised at the gains of previously non-athletic kids.”

Looking for fun ways to get kids moving? Check out our free resources for teachers on Pinterest!

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Coach Susan Cary first heard about Marathon Kids when the principal at Bennie L. Cole Elementary in San Antonio, Texas, where Cary teaches fifth grade, was working with a parent to find a sponsor to start a run club. “I love families and believe in the importance of building healthy habits together,” says Cary. “I have a passion for seeing healthy families thrive. This is what motivated me—the ability to accomplish this via Marathon Kids.”

Marathon Kids

Now in its third year, the Cole Mighty Milers consists of 72 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. The club meets year-round on a weekly basis, and students run anywhere from a half-mile to two miles at a time; many students also run after school to increase their mileage. And the run club isn’t just about logging miles. Through the Mighty Milers, students also learn about stretching exercises as well as healthy eating habits and both short- and long-distance running strategies.

The New Marathon Kids Digital Lap Tracking App Makes Tracking Miles Easy

School staff members and run club volunteers use the new Marathon Kids digital lap tracking app—Marathon Kids Connect—to keep track of the students’ mileage. About Marathon Kids Connect, Cary says, “We LOVE it! It’s quite easy to use, primarily due to the fact that the Marathon Kids website has great tech support. They do a wonderful job of responding to our questions right away and walking us through the process in real-time.”

The Cole Elementary staff and volunteers who help run the Mighty Milers also love the reports that are available through the app. “It allows us to share real-time goals with our kids on a week-to-week basis, enabling them to adjust and push themselves more each week depending on what their personal goals are.”

Run Club Allows Children To Showcase Their Skills

“A good number of our kids come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds,” Cary says. “Some kids have a healthy background with their families, but many do not. They want to learn, and have a hunger for athletics and improving their health habits.”
Marathon Kids

One thing the Mighty Milers focus on together is goal-setting. “We are continuously helping our kids set goals every time we meet,” says Cary. “We use the Remind 101 app to communicate with parents and ensure they are partnering with us on this task. Parents love to know how their kids are doing. This enables parents to get involved alongside us in setting the kids’ goals, both in and outside of the school club.”

She also points out the importance for students’ self-esteem of participating in a school run club with appropriate support and encouragement. “Students with and without running talent gain an opportunity to showcase their special skills through run club! Being able to excel in at least one area in school is extremely important in improving students’ self-esteem, motivation and attendance. Our Marathon Kids Cole Mighty Milers Run Club has done this and more for our seventy-plus students.”

Running Enables Positive Changes—In Everyone

Each year, Cary has seen increasing interest among her student runners to be involved in the Mighty Milers in order to gain healthy habits as well as a clearer and more powerful mindset. “We have more than a one-hundred-percent return rate from last year’s students, and more students asking to participate every day. Through our run club, our students experience firsthand the joy of completion, competition and commitment.”

Through their Marathon Kids run club, the student runners are meeting goals they never imagined, and self-reflection from the students indicates they believe running has helped them achieve their goals.

Cary has also seen benefits for herself since starting the run club. “The Marathon Kids program has motivated and continues to motivate me to be a role model for these kids. It has not only impacted me positively, but also my school and my family. I was twenty-five pounds overweight when I started this run club; since starting the club, I have lost twenty-two pounds and am still losing. My mother passed away at the young age of sixty-three due to due to her lack of living a healthy lifestyle. I want to be an example to my brothers and sisters as well as my students of what living a healthy lifestyle can do.”

Teamwork Helps Runners Push Through Tough Moments

The Mighty Milers know running gets difficult from time to time. To push through tough moments, the students take frequent water breaks and encourage one another. “We motivate our kids by running alongside them and encouraging them as we go with high fives and feedback,” Cary says. “We tell them, ‘Come on, you got this, you’re almost there, you can do it.’ The kids also see us scan our mileage cards as well.”

The students learn through their Marathon Kids running that you can’t always rush to the finish, because sometimes you might run out of endurance and focus. “These lessons will stick with our students as they return back to the classroom and try to finish reading chapter books, work in groups, or write essays.”

Cary says, “We are thankful for the positivity and smiles Marathon Kids puts on our students’ faces, and how it gives them something to look forward to at the end of the day. There is nothing better than seeing the face of a student that just completed their first mile and every mile after!”

For anyone who is thinking of starting a Marathon Kids run club, Cary recalls the famous Nike slogan: “Just do it. The outcome far outweighs any negative thoughts or fears. You will be pleasantly surprised and more than pleased with the participation and the desire that your colleagues, students, parents and community have for the program.”

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No matter what traditions their individual families celebrate at home, most kids love the holiday season for the sense of warmth and excitement that permeates the air, and of course the approaching break from school. These holiday PE games are a great way to channel students’ excitement, and also any stress they might be feeling. Yes, the holidays can be a bit tense and chaotic for everyone, including children, who pick up on any strain the adults in their lives may be feeling. Good thing getting the body moving is a known stress-reliever!

These five holiday PE games tap into the joy and cheer of the season, and are great for helping kids of all ages stay centered in both mind and body through the holidays. Play festive holiday music during activity time and decorate cones and other areas of the gym with snowman cut-outs or wrapping paper to add to the festive fun!

Holiday PE Games

Holiday PE Games

1. Winter Stations

Set up the number of stations that works for your space and then divide students into the same number of groups. Stations can include a Wreath Toss (tossing hula hoops or actual wreaths over cones), Snowball Target Practice (tossing foam balls, bean bags or any other type of smaller balls toward a target), Snowball Relay (kicking soccer balls along a path or using hockey sticks to push them along to the next student in line), Scooter Bobsledding (one student sitting on a scooter as their partner pushes them along a designated path), or Ice Skating (sliding around with each foot on a paper plate — students can also balance a bean bag as a “snow hat” on their heads for an added challenge).

2. Reindeer Tag

Kids love a good game of tag, and this holiday version is sure to delight. Taggers are elves, and runners are reindeer; when runners are tagged, they must freeze in place and put their hands to their heads, thumb-first with fingers outstretched, to simulate reindeer horns. Other “reindeer” who haven’t yet been tagged can un-freeze tagged runners by singing the first phrase of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while releasing the frozen runner with a high-five.

3. Santa Stations

Students get to be Santa Claus! Have students deliver presents (running with balls or bean bags from a central pile to designated drop-off points around the gym, such as bins or hula hoops laid out on the floor); climb the chimney (practicing their rope-climbing skills); build toys (stacking foam blocks in a tower — extra points for precision!); ride in Santa’s sleigh (pushing or pulling each other on scooters along a designated course); and work off all those cookies and milk (doing set repetitions of jumping-jacks, mountain-climbers and other cardio moves). Santa Stations work great as a timed course for older kids, or simply as skill-building stations for all ages.

4. Christmas Tree and Menorah Tag

This simple game of tag can be played in short rounds, rotating taggers each time. Before beginning the game, talk with the students about which of their families celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah and decorate a Christmas tree, light a menorah, or both. You can discuss the fact that these are traditions for some but not all families each December. Then begin the game: Depending on the size of your class, designate between two and four taggers and give each of them a small ball (softer ones work best). Taggers will use these balls as either “ornaments” or “candles” to tag other runners; when tagged, runners can choose whether to turn into a Christmas tree or a menorah, either by using their arms and legs to make triangle shapes with their bodies, like a tree, or by putting up their arms to simulate the shape of a menorah. They can hold that position until the end of the round, when all tagged runners are released and new taggers take over.

5. Melting Snowmen

To play this fun and fast-paced game, lay out hula-hoops on the floor throughout the gym with a bowling pin, representing a snowman, in the center of each hoop. Students stand inside the hula-hoops, protecting their own snowmen while “melting” others’ pins by rolling balls into them. Depending on class size, two or more students should line up on the sidelines of the game and wait their turn to jump in on the action. Anytime a snowman melts (meaning a bowling pin topples over, whether because a player hit it with a ball or knocked over their own pin in the heat of the game), the first student in line on the side heads to that hoop to take over, while the original player heads to the back of the waiting line.

Want more? Check out 5 Fun PE Running Games!

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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.”

Coach Larry’s 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.

Austin Marathon Kids

MANTRA: 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. 

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The Lion Runners club is grant-funded, thanks to the generous support of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

In Watts, a neighborhood in southern Los Angeles, California, there is an elementary school called the 112th Street S.T.E.A.M. Academy, where educator Criss Moreno wears many hats. She is a fourth-grade teacher and the school’s technology coordinator. She is also in her third year of coaching the Lion Runners, the school’s Marathon Kids run club, which has 120 fourth- and fifth-grade members.

112th Street Elementary, as the community calls it, is a Title I school. Coach Moreno applies for any and every grant she can because her students are both deserving and in need. “I really wanted to help my students to get up and move,” she says. “They spend so much time on their screens that I knew if I could find an incentive to get them to move, it would really benefit them.”

She also knew it would help her fifth-grade runners prepare for their Fitnessgram, a physical fitness test designed by the California State Board of Education to test students’ fitness levels with the goal of helping them launch lifelong habits of physical activity. While Marathon Kids run clubs don’t test runners’ fitness levels, and children of all abilities and fitness levels are both welcome and encouraged to participate, the Marathon Kids mission isn’t that unlike the California government’s goal: to set children on the path toward healthier lives.

Physical Activity Offers Multiple Benefits

Coach Moreno has benefited from the run club alongside her students. “Because I get out on the track and walk at least a quarter-mile a day to encourage my kids to run, I have lost 100 pounds and kept it off,” she says. “With the help of Marathon Kids and my loving students, we are all making better choices and making sure we hit a minimum movement number each day.”

All the Lion Runners run at recess, and some run at lunch as well. Everyone runs a minimum of a quarter-mile each day, and some up to a mile at a time. This year, for the first time, Marathon Kids is providing digital lap tracking for teachers and run club coaches, who can download the free app on their phones and get instant data when their students swipe their ID cards after each lap they run. “In the previous two years,” Coach Moreno says, “I kept a spreadsheet to track my students’ miles. This year, each teacher has the Marathon Kids app on their phone, so any teacher can log the miles. The app makes this so much easier!”

Less administrative work leaves more time for running—and the benefits of movement that Coach Moreno sees in her students extend beyond the physical. Research has repeatedly shown that daily physical activity boosts cognition and brain function along with strength, balance and cardiovascular health. “Because the students are running at recess,” says Coach Moreno, “they are a bit tired when they come back to class, and this leads to better concentration—because their bodies are tired, but their minds are not.”

Staying Motivated And Healthy For Life

When the going gets tough—as it always does at some point, for every runner—Coach Moreno’s students fall back on a basic Marathon Kids tenet to stay motivated: achieving their goals in small, manageable steps. “I give them a minimum to achieve each day,” Coach Moreno says, “so most of them like to do double or triple that. And because we are making small goals, they slowly, on their own, increase the number of laps they run each day.”

Her students are familiar with adversity. “Watts is historically a troubled area,” she says. “It’s where the 1965 Watts riots kicked off. We see generational poverty, and many students come from single-parent homes. There is not a lot of motivation to live a healthy lifestyle.” But her students love earning rewards for reaching milestones, and the tee-shirts and other fun Nike swag that they receive from Marathon Kids gives them the incentive to keep trying. “The students don’t realize they are building healthy habits that they will use the rest of their lives.”

Setting Goals For The Future—And Achieving Them

Coach Moreno encourages anyone who is considering starting a Marathon Kids run club or becoming a coach to go for it, and offers this advice: “It will improve your health, it will improve your classroom, and it will make a HUGE difference in the lives of your students.”

What’s on the horizon for her as the school year progresses?

“I hope to lose another 30 pounds this running season!”

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.