This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on September 12, 2019.
With youth inactivity reaching epic levels, Cami Hawkins, CEO of Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving.
Hawkins wears many different hats—healthcare professional, philanthropist, fitness enthusiast, CEO, volunteer and mom. Hawkins is especially passionate about her CEO position of Marathon Kids, a nonprofit begun in 1995 by Kay Morris, who wanted to come up with a program for kids to boost their activity and introduce them to the joy of running.
Marathon Kids excites kids to stay active. Through running and physical activity, they are helping kids and parents, at school and in the workplace, achieve a path to living healthier lives.
As one of the few evidence-based running/walking programs in the country for kids, Marathon Kids relies on community partners, grants, sponsors and individual donors to help provide funding and training to coaches across the country who want to start run clubs in underserved communities. Last year, nearly 60,000 kids participated throughout Texas.
What ideas have you brought to Marathon Kids?
After joining Marathon Kids, I started a Youth Running and Fitness Leadership Call for leaders of 22 youth running organizations around the country. These biweekly calls have an incredible feeling of cooperation and collaboration and [people on the call have] a real desire to talk about problems, best practices, and opportunities to do more to combat youth inactivity together than we are doing individually.
How are kids participating?
Through the program, miles are achieved one lap at a time, one day at a time. Kids track their own progress in their Marathon Kids mileage logs as their coaches set achievable distance goals each time their clubs meet. Coaches challenge their runners to reach marathon milestones—from 26.2 miles, the distance of one marathon, to 104.8 miles, or four total marathons—over the course of a three-, six- or nine-month running club season.
Any differences in kids who are active during the school day?
Research shows that active kids learn better. They score higher on tests, are more likely to go to college, and have better school attendance, concentration, and behavior in class. One physically active session during the school day creates a 21% decrease in a teacher’s time managing behavior, which benefits everyone in the classroom.
How long does it usually take to complete 104.8 miles?
Most kids can run one mile in about 20 minutes. So, if they run one mile once every three days, they can complete their first marathon in about two months and their fourth marathon (104.8 miles) in about eight months. Marathon Kids programming is completely customizable, but it is designed to inspire kids to run all 104.8 miles over the course of a school year.
How many Texas schools have adopted the program?
All 81 Austin ISD elementary schools participate in Marathon Kids. Last school year, an additional 234 schools across Texas had Marathon Kids run clubs. This year, we anticipate even more schools registering because for the first time we are offering digital lap tracking for clubs, at no additional charge. Coaches will now have the ability to track their runners’ distance in real time with the Marathon Kids Connect app and generate reports online with the click of a button.