Turning Opportunity Into Action: Coach Mendez and the Freedom Elementary Marathon Kids

Coach Maria Mendez is a K-5 PE teacher at Freedom Elementary School in Southside Independent School District, approximately 20 miles south of downtown San Antonio. After hearing about Marathon Kids at one of her district learning days, Coach Mendez, a lifelong runner, decided it was a great idea to start a Marathon Kids Running Club with her 4th graders.

Deciding to start small, Coach Mendez promoted the club to 4th graders, and parents were quick to raise funds and turn in permission slips for their children to participate in running club. The program has quickly gained popularity within the school, and next season, the 3rd graders will join the club.

Coach Mendez not only sets an active example for her students by participating in physical activity herself, but also has set the example for her peers at Freedom Elementary. “Our faculty is very supportive our run club. Other students watch us run by and are always asking to join in. Our kids run as a team and it really helps their mind, body and soul and they have become closer friends through the running together. The mileage logs and Nike incentives keep the kids motivated to push toward their next goal. It also helps keep me in shape!” says Coach Mendez.

Although Freedom Elementary doesn’t have a running track, Coach Mendez has mapped a route around the school, which is roughly a fifth of a mile. Students the count their laps and set the goal to run at least one mile per session. Participants run for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday at the school and then involve their parents and families by running 30 minutes on the weekends.

Coach Mendez has many runners who see the many benefits of their increased physical activity. Ten year old Trinity shares, “Marathon Kids has helped me stay fit and helped me with cross-country and track. It makes me feel more energized and I don’t feel tired, anymore”.

Freedom Elementary is a Title 1 campus, meaning that the majority of students are enrolled in the free and reduced price school meals program. In spite of economic challenges, Coach Mendez sees both the value in Marathon Kids and the importance of asking runners and their families to contribute to their current and future health.

“Marathon Kids Club, has really inspired my students to become closer to one another, and to me. It has taught them responsibility, given them stamina, courage, and a love for running. It has made me become a better role model for my Students. They always know what days we are running, and if certain circumstances arise, and they can’t run, they aren’t very happy. I’ve also noticed that the runners have become closer, and are developing relationships with one another, and with me. I hope to continue the running club next year, and I will encourage other Coaches in the district to start a Marathon Kids run club, they will love it!”

Feeling inspired by Coach Mendez to take the initiative to have participants self-fund to participate in a Marathon Kids running club? Contact KT, at kenrick@marathonkids.org, for ideas and resources you can use to get started.