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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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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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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. 

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The Ambassador School of Global Education Running Club is grant-funded, thanks to the generous support of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

Patricia Andrade sees running and Marathon Kids as “a sport and program in which all students can be successful.”

That’s important to her, as an elementary school teacher and Marathon Kids run club coach at the Ambassador School of Global Education in Koreatown, a small, diverse neighborhood in central Los Angeles. “We have a very diverse school community, and that is reflected in our running club as well.”

Ms. Andrade inherited her run club when a former colleague moved on to another school, leaving the club to her, along with a great legacy. “She is an avid runner,” Ms. Andrade says of her former colleague, “and was a great motivator and example for our students, so I knew I had to continue that. Our students don’t have access to a lot of green space in their community, or to organized sports. This was a great opportunity to continue providing this sport and space to our students, and to make this a yearly program and club for them to participate in.”

Their run club’s official name is Ambassadors Who Run, but Ms. Andrade and her students refer to it simply as Running Club. There are currently 140 students and 26 parents registered—the club’s highest-ever participation in each category. The students, who range from kindergarten to fifth grade, meet after school every Thursday and Friday to run for an hour on the track and field. Everyone warms up together and takes plenty of walking and water breaks; still, many students manage to cover three miles during their hour together.

Los Angeles Run Club for Kids

Motivating Others To Live A Healthier Life

In early autumn, they’ve just started up Running Club again for the school year, so the students are working on developing their endurance and stamina after the summer break. “They definitely get tired,” Ms. Andrade says, “but they end up motivating each other, and they love seeing adults, the teachers and parents, running with them.”

Ms. Andrade loves Running Club in part because it provides a change of pace from teaching in the classroom. “Being a coach gives me the opportunity to take off my teacher hat for a bit and motivate students to make better choices with their health. Physical activity and Marathon Kids give us the opportunity to instill healthy habits in our students, to help them feel better about themselves, and to teach them to make this a lifestyle for the rest of their lives.”

There’s plenty of overlap between coaching and teaching, of course. Ms. Andrade can tell her Run Club students are taking her message to heart when she hears them say things like, “I brought my water bottle, my running shoes, my hat, my sunscreen…” She says, “All of these are indicators that they are listening to our tips and creating healthier lifestyles for themselves. Running club becomes part of their school experience and ultimately their lifestyle.”

Los Angeles Run Club for Kids

When The Running Gets Tough, The Runners Keep Going—After A Short Break

“The students love running and socializing on the track,” says Ms. Andrade. “Something about completing their laps, miles and marathons motivates them to keep going around the track and keep coming back every week.”

Still, every runner faces challenges from time to time. “The students definitely get tired, especially right now, when our L.A. days are still very warm. A few months into running club, there are usually a few students who will stop coming because it gets too hard, and completing marathons is no easy task.”

When students stop showing up, Ms. Andrade follows up with them. “I do individual check-ins with students at recess and lunch if I haven’t seen them in a while, to see if everything is okay and to motivate them to keep running, keep pushing and keep achieving those miles.”

The teachers also serve as cheerleaders out on the track. “We have a megaphone and we’ll walk or run in the opposite direction as the students, motivating them to keep going. We give them time reminders so they are aware when 15 minutes are left, ten, five and so forth, so they know there is an end and they can achieve laps within those time frames.”

They always encourage breaks—and then getting back on the track. “If it gets too tough, they can take a break from running for a few minutes. We remind students to stay hydrated and walk whenever needed. But we always get them back up and going again soon so they can complete their laps.”

Milestones And Rewards Keep The Runners Motivated

“Throughout the running season,” Ms. Andrade says, “we award our runners at our monthly school assemblies. We take the opportunity to showcase them as they complete their marathons, and they love getting to show off their Nike swag. The recognition and rewards help those who have fallen off to come back and restart their running journeys.”

The runners are also motivated by seeing their run club goals and mileage logs displayed prominently in the office. “They get to see their names as they complete their marathons,” Ms. Andrade says, “which is another great incentive and motivator.”

Run Club Is Good For Grown-Ups, Too

Physical activity is important to Ms. Andrade “because it keeps me healthy and ultimately sane. I was athletic in high school, and played volleyball and soccer all four years. I didn’t play sports in college, but kept going to the gym. Then adulthood happened. Stress is real, and it affects many aspects of one’s life. After a few years of failed gym memberships, I rediscovered a love for physical activity through CrossFit, and that has kept me healthy, but more importantly both physically and mentally strong.”

Coaching her school’s run club has helped her further develop her fitness. “I never considered myself a runner and have always struggled at it; long-distance running is mentally difficult. Running Club and CrossFit have changed that perspective now that I run with my students.”

Now she makes it a point to participate in local 5Ks along with some of her top Marathon Kids runners. “I challenged myself to run with them. It’s a great accomplishment and feeling even if it’s just three miles, because I challenge myself to keep my time or beat it every year. It is also an example to my students that size doesn’t matter. I may not look fit to the average eye, but when I exercise with my students and show them my progress at CrossFit or finish that 5K, they see that a healthy lifestyle can be carried in all shapes and sizes.”

She re-emphasizes the mind–body connection. “Did I mention it helps A LOT with my mental health? This teaching thing is no easy job!”

Los Angeles Run Club for Kids

Physical Activity Improves All Aspects Of Life

Ms. Andrade’s students are English Language Learners who are participating in the school’s Spanish Bilingual Maintenance program. She sees benefits from Running Club that extend not only to her students’ physical health and fitness, but also to their moods and academics. “Academic growth is directly connected to a well-balanced social-emotional and overall physical health. Our students love running club, and we start noticing trends throughout the year for those students who participate. Our students tend to get recognized in other areas besides running club, and also tend to receive certificates in achievement areas such as citizenship or academic improvement. I get updates from teachers that behavior in the classroom starts improving as well, and that kids are happier looking forward to their running days.”

The benefits of daily physical activity also extend to the students’ home lives. “Parents talk about how their children start sleeping better, start drinking more water, start making better food choices and want to continue running on their own time because it becomes routine.” Ms. Andrade says the most important thing for her is that “every child that joins our running club becomes a winner and achieves. They all get recognized and awarded for their effort; they wear their Marathon Kids shirts with pride, because they know they belong to something.”

Running Club enables kids of all kinds to come together and connect. “Academic ability, special education classification, language or learning labels—these don’t matter in running club. It is truly an equal playing field for all. Students start making friends with students from other grade levels and programs. It is also common for the older kids to become mentors to the younger kids and motivate them to keep running. You see lots of older students holding hands with the younger kids to help them keep going. It’s cute to see!”

Advice For Other Marathon Kids Run Club Coaches

One of Ms. Andrade’s biggest pieces of advice for anyone wanting to start a Marathons Kids club or become a coach is to get help from colleagues, parents or other community members. “Marathon Kids is a great program with lots of benefits, but it does require work, organization and structure. A support team, or even just one other person, can help with all the details, from scanning laps to motivating runners and advertising the club.” She shares coaching duties, including mileage tracking, with parents and other teachers. They all downloaded the Marathon Kids app so anyone can scan the runners’ ID card as they complete their laps around the track.

But the most important thing of all, she says, is this: “Run or walk with your students, and have fun!”

Her students frequently express their love for Running Club. “Our schedule is the same every week, yet I always get asked if there will be Running Club on Thursday and Friday. They tell me, ‘I’ll see you there!’” That love—of running, and of the community they have built together—is mutual. “What can I say? I love Running Club as much as my students!”

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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Rain, hail, sleet, snow, and cold can play a factor in the safety level of your run club session. But with a little bit of preparation and a strong desire to be active, we can kick our fears of cold weather to the curb, and get faster along the way.

Cold Weather Running Tips Flyer

How cold is too cold?

Generally speaking, it’s safe to be outside in temperatures as low as -17°F. According to research by the American College of Sports Medicine, the risk of frostbite and hypothermia increases at a greater rate past that point. That
being said, Marathon Kids does not recommend kids being outside for long periods of time in subfreezing temperatures. As a general rule of thumb, temperatures above 32°F are recommended for outdoor activity.

When looking at outdoor temperatures, pay attention to the windchill factor (the “feels like” temperature) to get the most accurate idea of comfort level for your runners. Knowing the signs of hypothermia and frostbite are key to keeping your runners safe.

Cold weather running tips

❄️ Layer Properly
❄️ Warm-Up and Cool Down
❄️ Take Breaks
❄️ Stay Hydrated
❄️ Check Your Route

Running Games

If it’s too cold to be outside, try playing some indoor running games or sports to allow kids to reach moderate-to-vigorous activity levels (MVPA) and earn some miles. Remember, 20 minutes of MVPA equals one mile!

Marathon Kids running club Michigan

Tips from Marathon Kids Coaches

“In these chilly, Northern Michigan snowy-weather days, we keep motivated by keeping a clear head without any negative comments like ‘It’s too cold’ or ‘We can never run outside.’ Help each other stay positive. Have a once-a-month hot cocoa date after practice to warm up. As much as possible, RUN RUN RUN yourself so your runners know they are not alone and you are giving the same, best effort you are asking of them EVEN when it is cold, wet, and your lungs start to hurt. A rule always is (no matter the weather conditions) if you pass by someone on the trail or the track, you need to offer a piece of encouragement. Have fun! You are building memories with your friends and coaches AND you are building your body to be stronger with each and every step.”
—Coach Kelly Gough, Au Gres, MI

“We are from Berwyn, Illinois, a western suburb just outside Chicago, so we feel the lake-effect winds and snow. We try hard to have kids wear layers, t-shirts, long sleeves, sweatshirts, hats, and gloves, but most end up wearing their winter jacket. We just started staying in, but the kids never know if we are going to play a game, run laps, or both.”
—Coach Gert August, Berwyn, IL

“We are in Beaverton,Oregon. We do tell [our runners] that the quicker they move, the warmer they’ll get. These runners are amazing! 25 degrees this morning and these kids were still out there smiling (or maybe their faces were just frozen that way!). Way to go Eagles!”
—Coach Brent Van Volkinburg, Portland, OR

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.