Evidence-Based Research

Marathon Kids has impacted the lives of millions of kids, as one of the only evidence-based running/walking programs for children in the United States. Research findings from studies conducted by the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas School of Public Health – Austin shaped our program by determining six evidence-based pillars to long-term healthy behavior adoption.

Evidence-Based Pillars

Goal Setting
Marathon Kids helps you create realistic and attainable goals for your kids. We provide you with tools, including digital lap tracking with Marathon Kids Connect, to help you map out these goals for your running club.

Group Tracking
We help your running club keep track of their miles with both paper Mileage Logs and our digital app, Marathon Kids Connect.

Marathon Kids prioritizes modeling in our programming. If you make your health a priority your kids are more likely to do the same.

It’s proven that celebrating helps to promote long-term healthy behavior adoption. We provide clear instructions for throwing a Kick Off Ceremony and Finisher Celebration to motivate and celebrate your running club.

Social Support
A Marathon Kids run club is fun and motivating. Setting goals and running together will help inspire your kids to keep moving. Living a healthier lifestyle is easier and more fun if you have the support of others around you.

It’s been proven that positive reinforcement is effective. Marathon Kids incentivizes your running club by providing certificates, stickers, and other rewards throughout the season to encourage kids to keep running, and complete their goals.

Research Findings

All studies conducted by the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas School of Public Health – Austin.

Phase I: Evaluation of Marathon Kids

September 16, 2009 | Findings:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Increased athletic self-perception

“In this evaluation, we found statistically reliable positive effects of the Marathon Kids program on running and psycho-social related factors such as athletic identity, parent social support and physical activity self-efficacy in children from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. With the highest satisfaction for the program reported by Hispanic and African American children as well as children from Spanish-speaking families, these findings provide an important basis for further dissemination of the program to ethnically and economically diverse children, families and schools.”

Phase II: Marathon Kids: Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Eating in Elementary School Children

August 31, 2011 | Findings:

  • Increased fruit and vegetable consumption across all program groups
  • ‘Enhanced’ and ‘Sprouting Healthy Marathon Kids’ groups showed further F/V consumption beyond the ‘regular’ MK schools
  • Marathon Kids tracking log system was attributed with success

“Findings from the online survey and in-depth interviews indicated a high level of support and satisfaction with the MK program and a generally high level of implementation of MK activities.”

Phase III: Evaluation of Strategies for Increasing Parent Involvement in Marathon Kids and Pilot Implementation of Marathon Kids In-a-box

August 31, 2013 | Findings:

  • Face-to-face/personal communication is most effective means to reach parents
  • Enhanced parent communication positively increased parent exposure to the Marathon Kids program Wellness Team Schools demonstrated a higher level of (MK) activities taking place

“MK school coordinators representing 22 schools from 3 Texas school districts that participated in the MKIB pilot implementation reported high satisfaction with the MK program and with support received to implement MKIB. MK school coordinators also reported a high level of implementation of several of the core MK program components, including structuring time for student running and walking during school hours (100% of schools), school support with tracking of mileage and fuel logs (>90%), and implementation of a Final Mile Run event (91%).”

The final report for the Marathon Kids Pilot Study that we conducted this past year, which was based on a mixed methods approach (qualitative and quantitative methods) and included three separate studies. Among these studies- and as you may recall, we compared students from three AISD elementary schools with three Manor elementary schools.  While we documented various positive findings with the Marathon Kids programs- including a range of best practices for implementing Marathon Kids that were generated with input from AISD teachers as well as Marathon Kids coaches from across the U.S., we did not see differences in physical activity outcomes between our pilot sample of AISD and Manor students.  As we share in the report, this is very likely due to structural differences in the amount of PE and recess being provided in Manor. Ob a positive note, despite these differences, we still found AISD students to be engaging in high minutes of MVPA (~52 daily minutes)- which nears the recommended 60 minutes of daily MVPA recommendation.

Exploring the Delivery and Effects of the Enhanced Coachled Marathon Kids Model: A Pilot Study

August 30, 2019  |  Findings:

  • A high reach of the Marathon Kids program across the United States (n=65,163 children in grades 1st through 12th reached from across 35 states in the U.S.).
  • Positive impact on delivery of children’s physical activity as assessed by marathons completed, with Marathon Kids coaches reporting 86.4% of student participants having completed 1 marathon, with just under half (49%) completing 3 marathons (the equivalent of 78.6 miles walked or run during the course of the school year). [Note: Numbers are based on total sample surveyed, not on specific targeted marathon goals for a given club].
  • Positive impact on delivery of children’s physical activity as assessed by minutes scheduled, with Marathon Kids coaches reporting an average of 112 minutes provided during the school week, representing an average of 22.4 daily minutes of walking/running via the program.
  • High satisfaction of coaches with the Marathon Kids program based on a composite satisfaction score that includes items such as “I enjoyed doing Marathon Kids very much this year” and “I would recommend Marathon Kids to a friend/colleague” (mean Marathon Kids satisfaction score of 50.6, with 56 representing the highest possible score).
  • High satisfaction with support received by Marathon Kids coaches from Marathon Kids staff.
  • Identification of a range of innovative and promising best practices for implementing various facets of Marathon Kids, including: general organization and planning of running clubs, student recruitment, club approach and activities, tracking and logging miles, and promotion and communication approach, among others.

“Findings from the Finisher Survey and Star Coach Interview underscore important strengths of the Marathon Kids program, including high levels of satisfaction of MK coaches and student participants, a wide reach of the program across the U.S., implementation-related impact that includes student marathons completed and scheduled minutes for physical activity within schools and out-of-school time settings, and a range of Marathon Kids coach-informed best practices for program implementation in relation to the Marathon Kids program pillars. Strengths and lessons learned documented in this study provide a strong foundation for the overall approach of Marathon Kids as well as an opportunity for further engaging and co-learning with the vibrant Marathon Kids’ community about best practices for advancing Marathon Kids’ mission of providing a path for healthy youth development through running.”