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Drake Muyinza is revolutionizing the running industry. During the 2020 Austin Marathon, Muyinza broke the Guinness World Record for the longest fashion runway by running 26.2 miles and changing outfits every four miles. He demonstrated courage, determination, and reminded all of us how to find joy in running. His commitment and dedication to the sport and community have only grown since the marathon.

Breaking Boundaries

It’s never been easy for Drake Muyinza to run. Muyinza shared his inner dialogue as he runs. “As a black man, I’m afraid to run. I’m afraid of what they might think. Why is that black man running? I’m afraid of what they might see What is he running from? As a black man, I’m thinking too much.” 

For a long time, Muyinza feared that he did not belong to the running community because no one looked like him on the trail. He was anxious to run because he did not want someone to think he was running from a crime. This is why Muyinza began to find solace in the fashion industry. He began to dress up on his runs to make it clear that he was just running and not suspicious. 

With the recent light brought to the prejudices the black community faces, Muyinza decided it was time to stand up for the black kids. Muyinza is passionate about running because for him, “it’s therapeutic” and he wants all kids to be able to experience that release.  

Buy a Mile

Muyinza started a “Buy a Mile” campaign to bring awareness to the everyday fear and anxiety that comes with being a black man and going on a run. For every $10 donated, Muyinza ran 1 mile and donated all of the proceeds to Marathon Kids. He believes in the Marathon Kids’ mission to get all kids active, to welcome every kid no matter their background, and show them the joy of running. Muyinza truly is inspiring the next generation to get active, but also to show compassion, empathy, and kindness towards those that need it most. Muyinza’s goal is to reach $2,000 or 200 miles run for Marathon Kids. As of today, he has run a little over 100 miles and has raised $1,500 in support of Marathon Kids programming. The “Buy a Mile” campaign will run until the end of July, by which time Muyinza hopes to have met his fundraising goal and have run all 200 miles. 

How to Support Drake Muyinza 

You can support Drake Muyinza and his “Buy a Mile” campaign by donating through Hellofund. You can also follow him on Instagram.

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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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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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When Special Education teacher Maria Ornelas applied for a grant to fund a Marathon Kids run club at Lockwood Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles, California, she shared in her application that she was excited to become a run club coach “because running motivates the students to do their best on the track and in their classrooms. I want to teach the students that they can have fun for free, and without being on their iPads. This gives me an opportunity to collaborate with parents in regards to their child’s movement options.”

The Physical Education teacher at Lockwood had first brought the Marathon Kids program to the school several years earlier, and Ms. Ornelas was interested in getting involved for the sake of her students, who have moderate to severe autism. “When Marathon Kids was first implemented in our school, only the sixth-graders were part of the team. I found that my students were better able to focus in the classroom after they had some exercise or running time, so I asked the P.E. teacher about including my students in the program.”

Marathon Kids Run Clubs Help Children Manage Daily Stress

Ms. Ornelas saw that the daily physical activity gained through the MK program helped her students release anxiety along with the stress they often felt when they arrived at school—“a win-win for all.”

Her run club, called Lockwood Shining Stars, began with only 65 students participating. It grew over time, and currently has about 200 participants from several different grade levels at the school, ranging from TK (Traditional Kindergarten, for younger kindergarteners) through sixth grade, as well as three classes of children with moderate to severe autism.

At Lockwood, It’s A Group Effort

Ms. Ornelas wanted to get involved with Marathon Kids “because I could invite other teachers to join our Lockwood Shining Stars, in order to help our students cope with life stressors through exercise. We now have students in different grade levels running at different times of the day. It is a great sight to see children running with their friends and having fun!”

She teams up with other teachers to get the students moving. “The teachers who participate in Marathon Kids take charge of their students. There are about four classes that run or exercise after breakfast, while other teachers will take their students out to run before or after lunch, three to five days a week.”

The students’ daily mileage varies according to each classroom as well as the kids’ ages and ability levels. “We motivate our participants to complete one marathon at a time,” says Ms. Ornelas, though individual students reach their milestones at their own paces. “There are students in the upper grades who cover two to three miles daily.”

In years past, individual teachers tracked their students’ laps as the kids completed them, but this year, with the introduction of free digital lap tracking through the Marathon Kids app, some of the Lockwood teachers have begun to digitally track their students. Ornelas says the goal is for everyone involved with the Lockwood run club eventually to track digitally.

The Entire Community Benefits From Run Club

The benefits of Marathon Kids run clubs extend beyond the student runners. “Through Marathon Kids,” Ms. Ornelas says, “students are learning about proper nutrition, and parents are learning about proper nutrition through parent programs in our school.” She reports that many students who used to choose juice for their workout and recovery drink have begun choosing water instead when they run.

Ms. Ornelas plans to use the program to set her own running goals and make positive changes. “I have seen some little changes in myself since starting the program. I don’t like to feel sluggish when I don’t have some form of physical activity.”

Most of all, though, she sees how running makes life easier for her students. “Physical activity is important because it helps a person to deal with daily stressors in a positive way. Physical activity helps to keep the mind clear and gives positive energy throughout the day.” And whether the student runners naturally enjoy exerting themselves or it’s an effort for them to complete their laps, “either way, they run and enjoy the time they spend with their friends on the track.”

Motivation—And A Little Friendly Competition—Are Key When Running Gets Tough

When running gets tough, learning to push through the hard moments is a key lesson for any runner. At Lockwood, “We run for about a half-hour daily, and we always give the students high-fives and encourage them to keep running.”

But running inevitably gets tough at some point, no matter how intrinsically motivated the students might be. Ms. Ornelas says, “I have noticed that many students are encouraged by their peers. The sixth-graders are trying to outrun one another, which makes running fun and motivating for them, while getting them ready for middle school. They really like to outrun each other. The competition among the students is great. I see smiles and hear laughter as they run with their peers.”

Keeping track of their progress is another key element of the kids keeping their motivation high. “When they return to the class, they can see where they are on the graph. If they are below their friends, they usually want to be at the same miles with their friends or have more, so visual charts are always great.”

Marathon Kids Values Progress Built Over Time

Ms. Ornelas says, “My students are now able to walk/run a mile to a mile-and-a-half, whereas before, they could not even complete the first lap without taking a break.” When it’s time to head back to class and focus on academics, “I also see that they are not as jittery when it’s time to engage in their educational learning.”

For other teachers or coaches thinking of starting a Marathon Kids run club, Ornelas has this advice: “I believe that Marathon Kids provides many resources that can be given to students and their families to encourage them to exercise together. Marathon Kids is also a great way to start the day. Running and exercise help the students not only physically, but mentally as well. They release tension when they exercise, and then they feel more relaxed and ready to learn.”

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Marathon Kids was founded in 1995 with the simple idea that kids who set distance goals and track their progress on a mileage log will make healthier choices, both on and off the track.

Research findings from three independent studies on the Marathon Kids program confirmed this to be true. These studies affirmed that our program was making a difference in participants’ lives, and determined our six evidence-based pillars to long-term healthy behavior adoption.

This year, researchers from UTHealth School of Public Health – Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living conducted another independent analysis of the Marathon Kids program and its effectiveness with elementary school children. They were exploring if coach-led Marathon Kids run clubs help children reach the recommended daily minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and to gather insights about intrapersonal factors such as goal-setting and self-efficacy.

Is the Marathon Kids program helping kids make better choices and reach their goals?

The results of this analysis revealed that the Marathon Kids program does help children reach their 60 daily minutes of MVPA, especially when their schools don’t have adequate Physical Education class time for students to meet that goal. The analysis found that the Marathon Kids program can help provide more than 100 additional minutes of MVPA outside of P.E. in the form of walking and running, an important contribution to the school ecosystem to provide additional opportunities for kids to engage in physical activity.

The analysis also found that the Marathon Kids program helps students with setting, working toward, and achieving goals. The structure of the program, based on cumulative mileage logged over time by walking or running, makes it accessible to students of all abilities and fitness levels. Of the students who set a goal of covering 104.8 miles (the distance of four marathons) within one Marathon Kids season, 44.7% of them reached or exceeded that goal. Over half—56.4%—covered at least three marathons, 69.7% completed two, and 87.5% completed at least one full marathon.

Are coaches satisfied with the program?

The study found a high rate of satisfaction among Marathon Kids coaches with the program, with a mean satisfaction score of 50.6 (with 56 representing the highest possible score), and more than 92% of coaches reporting they plan to implement the program with their students again next year. Furthermore, 21.6% of coach respondents indicated greater than 100% participation, meaning even more students participated than expected after the initial registration period. Coach respondents reported high overall confidence in implementing their run clubs, with a mean score for the total sample of 4.5 (with 5 being the highest possible score).

What are some coach-recommended best practices?

The respondents agreed it’s essential to provide student runners with praise and recognition. Finding ways to celebrate their students’ achievements, both major and minor, was a priority for many of the respondents. Nearly half held a season kick-off event or ceremony, while nearly three-quarters hosted a Finishers celebration or ceremony at season’s end. Others announced finishers at their schools’ Student of the Month assemblies or designated a Runner of the Week. One coach suggested finding ways to praise all kids, “not just the one who ran the most that day. I have a small running club, but I always try to give each child some type of compliment that makes them want to keep coming back.”

Other coach-recommended best practices include providing the runners with regular encouragement and motivation, not just at the start or end of the season, but throughout. Some made it a regular practice to discuss their students’ efforts and achievements during P.E. class. “I always recognize achievement in my gym,” one coach said, “regardless how small. Gains are gains!” Another emphasized the importance of teamwork and good sportsmanship, and providing social support for the student runners. “Encourage kids to cheer each other on, and not to treat it like a competition.”

The Marathon Kids program is helping children build fitness and healthy habits for life. These student runners are also learning to set goals and work steadily toward them as they value others’ achievements in the same process. Developing such important life skills from an early age will benefit everyone, not just as individuals, but as a community.

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Running is one of the simplest and most basic ways the human body is built to move—which is probably why it’s on almost every physical education teacher’s agenda, regardless of their students’ ages or grade levels. But just because running is fundamental doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Instead of heading out to the track to run laps, why not spice up the routine?

Fun PE Running Games

The following five PE running games are fun for students of all ages and will help you keep things fresh for your gym class.

1. Red Light, Green Light

This classic running game is great for interval training as well as building physical endurance and listening skills. Students line up at the starting line, and as soon as the teacher calls out “green light,” everyone starts running as fast as they can toward the finish line. When the teacher calls out “red light,” all the runners must freeze in place until the teacher calls out “green light” again. If the teacher calls out “yellow light,” the students must slow their pace until it’s time to freeze or run once again.

2. Band-Aid Tag

There is one Tagger and two Doctors in this silly twist on tag and the rest of the students are potential Patients who run to avoid being tagged. When runners are tagged, they must hold a “Band-Aid” (a hand) over the spot where they were tagged and continue running. If they’re tagged a second time, they have to hold their other hand over that spot as well and keep going. If they’re tagged a third time, they’re out of “Band-Aids” and become Patients, which means they have to freeze and wait for the Doctors to come “operate.” Both Doctors must tag a frozen player at the same time in order to “operate” and “heal,” or un-freeze, the Patient, so the player can start running again. This game gets goofy when the Tagger tags runners on silly or hard-to-reach spots like their heads, knees or backs! 

3. Sharks And Minnows

This game might seem childish, but it can be lots of silly fun for all ages and in almost any space, whether you’re holding class in a gym, on a basketball court or in a field. Designate one student as the shark, and have them stand in the center of the play area. All the other students are the fish and should line up side-by-side at one end of the area. All the fish call out in unison, “Shark, shark, may we cross your ocean?” When the shark responds, “Go, minnows, go,” every student runs for the far side of the play area, trying to avoid being “eaten” (tagged) by the shark. If a runner is tagged, he or she then becomes a second shark and works with the first to tag other fish. The round or game is over when there’s only one minnow left.

4. Wacky Laps

There are times when running laps around a quarter- or eighth-mile track is necessary—but it never has to be boring. To make running laps more fun and interesting for your students, introduce Wacky Laps, in which they run every lap in a different (and wacky!) way. Students can run the first lap to music, the second lap backward, and the third lap as slowly as possible. They can run a lap weaving among cones, another while holding hands with a partner and another jumping over mini-hurdles (such as bean bags or any other small item that won’t trip them up). Letting the students brainstorm their own Wacky Laps is another great way to keep them engaged.

5. Criss-Cross Relay

Relay races are another great way to blend running practice with interval training and teamwork. For this whole-group relay, divide students into four groups and have each group line up in the four corners of your gym or play area. Designate the first runner—the first student in one of the lines, who will run diagonally across the play area to the group at the far corner, high-five the first runner there, and go to the end of that line. Meanwhile, the second runner (who received the high-five) has taken off to the third corner’s group to high-five that group’s first runner and head to the back of that line. That third runner will run diagonally across the area to high-five the fourth group’s first runner—and so on. The running pattern follows a continuous hourglass shape. To switch things up, have two students run at a time, and always diagonally across the play area, to create an X-shaped running pattern.

Want more? Read Indoor PE Games and Outdoor PE Games!

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.