Fourth-Grader West Edwards Reaches a Huge Milestone: 500 Miles!

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Fourth-Grader West Edwards Reaches a Huge Milestone: 500 Miles!

By Catherine Morris

West Edwards was a second-grader at Davis Elementary School in Austin, Texas, when the world suddenly shut down in the spring of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world shut down, but West didn’t. An avid runner with an innate love for the sport, he had been running daily at school with the Davis Marathon Kids run club. When classes shifted to remote learning at home, West shifted his running routine to his neighborhood. He averaged about two miles a day, and he and his parents used Marathon Kids Connect, the cloud-based physical activity tracking and reporting platform, to keep in touch with his run club coach and log his daily distances.

Two years later, West continues to be an avid runner. He has just completed fourth grade, and his mother, Christina Edwards, reports that he is still self-motivated to run almost every day.

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Running Helps Kids Stay Active Every Day

During the school year, West loves getting to school early so he can participate in the morning run club with the Assistant Principal. “He also runs at WOW and every recess,” Christina says. WOW stands for Working Out for Wellness, an Austin ISD initiative aimed at helping kids meet their district-mandated daily requirements for active time at school.

Coach Aimee Edwards, West’s PE teacher at Davis, supports the school’s classroom teachers in using Marathon Kids during WOW time. “Most students enjoy running or walking and talking with their friends,” Edwards says.

She uses Marathon Kids Connect to create runner and grade-level leaderboards that she posts outside the gym. Her students find it fun and motivating to check their stats, and they take pride in seeing their names and cumulative distances posted for everyone to see.

Marathon Kids Taps Into Kids’ Natural Competitive Streaks

West’s natural competitive streak definitely motivates him to run frequently and keep pushing toward new milestones. “He tracks his running mileage closely when it's posted outside the gym at school,” his mother says, “and he eyes his competition.” She and West’s father gave him his first entry-level Garmin running watch for Christmas, so West could use GPS to track his route and mileage around the neighborhood.

In January, when the Edwards family visited Hawaii, West chose to run three miles every day of their vacation. “It is probably modeled for him,” his mother concedes—both of his parents also fit in daily workouts while on vacation. West also recently watched his mother compete in a Half Ironman competition.

After the race, he told his mom he might like to set a goal of competing in a Half-Iron when he turns 18. “There definitely isn't any need to commit to that just yet,” his mother says, “but it would be fun to come full circle and cheer him on in triathlons someday, if he so chooses!”

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Running Is Playing

Coach Edwards agrees that West is particularly driven, and his accomplishment of 500 miles was incredible. “Running is in his blood!” she says. But he isn’t alone in his love of staying active. Edwards describes the entire Davis Elementary community as an active one. “Davis students like to move,” she says. “They love to play games and run!”

She shares her students’ love of play and physical activity. “I love to play!” she says. “To me, the term ‘physical activity’ is an adult way of saying ‘playing.’ Physical activity is fun. Playing is fun. There are health benefits, too, such as a great way to relieve stress and increase cardiovascular endurance.”

Edwards grew up loving to play outside with her brother and their friends. When she went to college, “kinesiology seemed the only logical path to take.” She started volunteering for Marathon Kids as a student at UT. “This was the very beginning of Marathon Kids! I became a PE teacher in 1999. Marathon Kids has always been and will always be a part of my physical education program.”

Kids Love Setting Physical Activity Goals—And Reaching Them

During the 2021-22 schoolyear, the Davis Marathon Kids running club had 624 students participating, who together covered more than 24,000 miles before the end of May. West contributed an average of three miles a day to that total and reached his 500th mile on May 26. Coach Edwards invited the entire school to cheer him on as he hit this major milestone.

Why does Edwards love the Marathon Kids program so much? “ALL students celebrate when reaching​ their personal Marathon Kids goals,” she says. “I love watching students get excited when they accomplish their goals or make the leaderboard! I also love​ providing movement opportunities for my students to learn how to interact with one another in positive ways. Marathon Kids provides the means for students to encourage each other every day. That is one reason students like the program.”

Coach Edwards believes in Marathon Kids, and physical activity in general, as a great way not just to keep kids physically healthy, but also to help them focus on learning. “Students need a ​break in the day so their brains can restart,” she says. “Marathon Kids is providing these breaks for our students. Classroom teachers notice a huge difference in their students’ ability to stay focused in the classroom after they have a chance to get outside and run or walk the track.”

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Physical Activity Improves Kids’ Classroom Learning Time

West’s fourth-grade teacher, Melani Novinger, agrees. “My whole class of 22 students participates in the Marathon Kids running club,” she says. As a class, by mid-May, she and her students had run more than 1,800 miles together.

Novinger is active outside of school as well, and particularly enjoys road biking and hiking. “Being outside and connected to my outside environment helps reset and energize me,” she says. “I love exploring new places through hiking, walking or biking. Exploring in those ways helps me get a better sense of the environment I am in.”

At school, Novinger’s students run outside every morning for 10 minutes. They use the Marathon Kids Connect app to scan their ID cards and automatically log their distances. If someone forgets their card, Novinger manually adds their distance or their active minutes.

“Some students run more than others,” she says, “and some walk, but it gets them outside and moving. I think physical movement helps kids focus better on school work. Marathon Kids has motivated my class to run, and has also encouraged them to cheer on their classmates.”

West’s Big Moment—His 500th Mile!

“West’s victory lap was pretty cool,” Novinger says of his milestone run at the end of May. “He doesn’t like a lot of attention, so when he got outside and saw all the people, he turned to go the other direction. He didn't want to run. His best friend told him he would run with him, and before long, he had a group running with him so he would be more comfortable.”

Novinger credits West's involvement in Marathon Kids with encouraging other kids to run. “Occasionally, he would convince others to run with him at recess,” she says. “During WOW time, there was a group of three or four students who enjoyed running together.”

Coach Edwards also credits West and his family with helping other students at Davis to develop a love of running, since it was the Edwards family that originally pushed the school to start a running club in 2019. “I witnessed a student learn to love running,” Edwards says. “This student joined the club to spend time with his friends. He routinely sat out and watched the other students running and playing games. As the running club continued, he began to join in more games.”

Now, she says, “I still see this other student striving on the track! This would not have happened if West and his family didn't push to have an after-school running club.”

West’s mother, Christina, points out that while it may seem like West runs a lot, he is “a pretty well-rounded kid. He has started to really like soccer. He is a huge Seattle Sounders fan and is playing for the Lonestar Soccer Club. He also enjoys mountain biking with his dad, playing Minecraft with his sister or friends, and cubing. His fastest solve time for a three-by-three standard Rubik's cube is 23 seconds.”

A well-rounded kid, indeed! Go, West, go!


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