Located in Copperas Cove in central Texas, Taylor Creek Elementary is a bright, happy school that welcomes more than 500 kids and almost 50 staff members into its doors each day. Thanks to Marathon Kids, it’s not uncommon to see half of these students running outside before school.
Coach Kyle Black can see on his runners’ faces as they walk, jog, gallop, and sprint by — that it is one of their favorite parts of the day. While only in its second year, it’s clear that Marathon Kids is an important part of the school’s culture. Mileage logs and photos dot almost every hallway.
Marathon Kids’ mission is to get kids moving by providing schools, organizations and parents with everything needed to create a running club. Each “marathon “kid” works at his/her own pace to run or walk four marathons over the running club season. They get training, rewards, tools, and resources to help them along the way.
When Black first heard about Marathon Kids, he was excited. He provided his administrators with research based on brain scans of kids before and after physical activity to help them understand the positive impact. Plus, he shared his belief that movement helps kids be kids.
“Not everyone will be a runner,” says Black. “We’re not trying to create runners. But I believe we can reach kids through running.”
Taylor Creek uses a digital, iPad-based app called EZScan to help the kids track their miles and meet their goals. Every time students complete a lap around the big, open field, they scan the QR code on their individual cards, which the coaches collect keep in large envelopes for the kids to pick up when they arrive before school and during their designated daily 10-minute fitness time. The simple app streamlines the process and creates a structure that requires minimal effort and time from staff.
Participating students typically run/walk for an average pace of 10 minutes per mile. Sometimes, there are unexpected results, such as:
- Three or four kids have reported weight loss of 20-30 pounds since starting the program.
- For a 5th grade boy with a history of behavioral issues, being a part of the Marathon Kids group helps keep him engage in positive behaviors.
- Another student who claimed he couldn’t run even 10 minutes a day now has three marathons (cumulative) under his belt.
- For others kids, it helps create important connections with their families — one 5th grader regularly runs with her father.
“I think team sports sometimes wear the family down instead of bringing them together,” Black says. “Our culture values people by performance. If performance is a kids’ identity and they are injured and can’t participate, then they lose their identity. The Marathon Kids program allows kids to go at their own pace. They don’t have to be perceived to be a typical sports star to achieve their goals.”
In school, kids attend physical education classes two to three times a week, based on an alternating schedule. Since implementing the Marathon Kids program, participating students’ scores from FitnessGram®, a non-competitive health-oriented fitness assessment, have noticeably improved.
Taylor Creek is also a HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award school, which means they are certified for enrollment in Team Nutrition. They have created a healthier school environment through the promotion of nutrition and physical activity. One example is that students are encouraged to eat a school-provided healthy breakfast before or after they run in the morning, and that, combined with the social and physical connection of Marathon Kids, prepares students for success.
“Our kids are accomplishing more and being healthier than they ever thought they could,” Black says. “Nothing could be more rewarding.”
Learn more about Marathon Kids at www.marathonkids.org.