Our Kids Are Running the World

Marathon Kids

Plenty of people have a goal of running a marathon. Some even have a goal of running multiple.

Certain kids, though, are aiming to complete four marathons — that's 104.8 miles, by the way — in a running club season, thanks to Marathon Kids.

Kay Morris started Austin-based Marathon Kids in 1995 based on the idea that a running log could motivate kids, boost their physical activity and introduce them to the joy of running.

"It makes fitness fun for children, and unfortunately — because of the fairly dire health statistics that are all-too prevalent in our childhood population — we've really 'medicalized' programming to the extent that it's not fun for children to participate in," says Marathon Kids executive director Christine Pollei. "So our goal is to reintroduce children to their innate love of movement."

Now, to clarify, we're not talking about four different occasions of running 26.2 miles a time. Participating children are keeping a running log, tracking their miles and reaching their goals day by day.

More: 6 Reasons to Encourage Your Child to Run

Any child at any fitness level can participate in the program as they get closer to living a life that's happy and healthy.

Sounds pretty good, right?

What's better is that this method has positively affected more than 2 million children in the last 20 years.

According to the agency, research shows that kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day. Only one in five kids currently reaches that, according to the site.

So running clubs are formed and kids run or walk a lap at a time, a day at a time. Before they know it, they're reaching their goals — and many times, they keep running.

The nonprofit recently got a key sponsorship from Nike, which is committed to ending a "physical inactivity epidemic" that is starting with children. The two companies hope to reach more than half a million children across the U.S. in just the next two years.

Last year, they increased the goal of running one marathon to running two, and 104,000 kids completed the goal. This year, they're bumping it up to four marathons.

"Our active goals weren't large enough: We had historically asked our kids to do a marathon over five or six months, and we found that wasn't enough of a physical activity," Pollei says. "So we've asked them to do multiple marathons."

The program costs $15 per child annually, plus the cost of the kit to the school, recreation center or neighborhood group entity that wants to participate.

"Anywhere there's an adult that's physically active and wants to encourage kids to be active, our program works beautifully," Pollei says.

More: Running with Your Kids: A Parent's Guide to Nurturing a Lifelong Lifestyle

Another advantage is that the sense of community is thriving with this program, she says.

Groups start a running club, workout with their kids and neighbors, have a healthy potluck, all the while getting to know one another and promoting living an active lifestyle. And that's reinforcing to children that it's not just important to their own family to be healthy, but to their entire neighborhood.

And that means a lot for their love of running.

"Children are doing it on their own, without prompting," Pollei says.

As Marathon Kids puts it — and we couldn't agree more — "Active kids do better."

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