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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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Christina Edwards is a longtime runner and working mom of two. Since Stay at Home began in mid-March in the Austin area due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Edwards and her husband have focused on balancing the family’s daily workouts with their children’s online schooling, all while continuing to work full-time from home.

The Edwards children—West, who is eight years old and in second grade, and Wynne, who is six and in kindergarten—attend Davis Elementary in northwest Austin. When school was still in session, they ran with the Davis Marathon Kids run club, and they have kept their running habits going since Stay at Home began.

“My kids are running five days a week,” says Edwards. “I tell them they need to take at least two days off, so they’ve been averaging about 10 miles a week.” West is largely self-motivated, thanks to his innate love of running. Wynne started running mainly because big brother was doing it. “My daughter is very stubborn,” Edwards says, “and wanted to prove she could hang with us for two to three miles.”

Parents Can Set a Good Example

“We never pushed our kids to run,” Edwards says, “but they saw us running and biking, as I do triathlons and have run a couple of marathons since West was born. He is obsessed with Usain Bolt, even though he considers himself an endurance runner.”

Earlier in elementary school, West kept asking his parents if he could run more. He even wanted to join a running club, says Edwards, “but we were not sure if it was just a fleeting thing. After begging for a year, and doing a lot of research—we found that a lot of running clubs that cater to kids are either very serious or too far of a commute with less than ideal hours for two working parents—we reached out to Austin Youth Fitness about starting a run club at Davis. Our PE Teacher and the AYF founder, Larry Chauvin, were amenable, and we got a run club started.”

They needed a minimum of 10 kids to make it happen. Fortunately, West wasn’t the only kid at school who was excited to join a run club. “There was plenty of interest, and I think the first run that started this past winter was at capacity with 26 kids!”

Building Up Mileage, One at a Time

Soon, West was covering two to three miles a day at recess with a couple of friends. “They use a scan card to run at recess and track the laps,” says Edward. At times, West has been at the top of the Davis mileage board, while at other times he’s fallen to fifth or sixth place. Now that the school has closed, she says, West’s PE teacher is allowing him to track his mileage from home. “He went back to first place in terms of mileage completed during this homeschool period.”

Even during the first couple of weeks of Stay at Home, when the Edwards family hadn’t yet started tracking the children’s miles, West was running almost every day. “His goal when he started was nine marathons, because that was the most the top runner ran last year at Davis.” The family started tracking mileage sometime during the second or third week of distance-learning, and in the weeks since, West has exceeded his own goal. “In total, he has run 11 marathons,” reports his mom—and counting.

Physical Activity Is Important, Especially During Trying Times

“Since we started staying at home,” Edwards says, “I have encouraged the kids to stay active because it is healthy and burns some energy, as both kids are very high energy. My daughter has also learned how to ride a bike, so that has been really fun. The kids tend to run early in the morning, around 6:30 or 7 a.m., after my husband and I get our workouts in. Then we’ll bike during the day, and if it’s a nice evening, we’ll go for a neighborhood bike or scooter ride, or walk our dog, Kona. It’s a great way to get out of the house and move a bit, since we obviously are not participating in our normal activities as we did pre-pandemic.”

Staying active has been especially important since Stay at Home began, Edwards says, “as it helps us maintain a routine that the kids were already used to before, since they would run regularly at school and on the weekends. Now, it gives us fresh air and a way to get out of the house regularly, and it is a great bonding activity. Beyond that, it continues to provide the physical and mental health benefits we need, especially during this time.”

Physical activity has always been important to Edwards, and is even more so now. “I have always been very active. I think, growing up, it was a good outlet for extra energy, but also to work out my emotions. Whether that is just leveraging a physical outlet or taking time to think through or problem-solve personal and work problems—for some reason, when I’m active, it gives me a different perspective.” She also appreciates running for other important life lessons. “Running itself teaches work ethic—set a goal, put in the work, and you can achieve it—and mental strength. Even when something is uncomfortable or isn’t easy, you keep on going.”

Tricks for Staying Motivated

On those days when running feels tougher than usual, Edwards has a couple of tricks up her sleeve to keep West and Wynne engaged. “For my kids, we have them run different animal speeds—for example, ocean animals: Starfish is walking, dolphin is jogging, and sailfish is sprinting. Or I will give them a goal to focus on: Run from here to the next mailbox.”

For herself, when she needs motivation to keep moving, she uses repetition to trick her brain into pushing through the difficulty. “I count to 100 on repeat, or repeat a song lyric stuck in my head over and over. Sometimes they’re kids’ songs!”

Watching her son develop his joy for running has been especially rewarding for Edwards. “We really didn’t push him to do it, but coming from a family of recreational runners, it has been great to see him pick up a healthy interest and stick with it. I think it has instilled confidence and taught him about intrinsic motivation, which I find a really important characteristic to develop, as well as discipline. It also helps get him ready for his day, as it is part of his routine.”

Adjusting to the New Stay-at-Home Lifestyle

“It definitely took a while to get a routine in place,” says Edwards, “with homeschool and both my husband and I working full-time. Both my kids have always responded better to understanding expectations ahead of time versus not really knowing what is going to happen, so when we first started staying at home with them, one of the first things I did was set a schedule that included active time, be it running, biking or just playing outdoors, as well as how much screen time they could have. I had to adjust it a lot based on what was working and what wasn’t, for the kids as well as for our work schedules.”

Before Stay at Home began, Edwards was used to rising by 4:30 a.m. to get a workout in before the kids woke up. The kids, for their part, were doing most of their running at school. “Now,” Edwards says, “I actually get to sleep in! I wake up around 5:30 during the week to work out.” The kids take turns choosing the route for their morning runs, and the whole family covers their miles together.

Seeing West’s evolving love of running has been fun for Edwards; she also loves seeing Wynne follow in her big brother’s footsteps. “My daughter is now just as motivated to run, and I think that is the case of big brother rubbing off. I love seeing her strength and determination to keep up with West, and her unabashed confidence that she has the ability to do anything she sets her mind to. It is really refreshing to see her mindset as she runs and stays active without any of the gender stereotype influences on her abilities and what brings her joy.”

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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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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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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.”

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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.