Coach George Adkins Uses Marathon Kids to Teach Healthy Life Lessons
George Adkins teaches physical education at River Ridge Elementary in Evans, Georgia. Along with his colleague Laura Paulos, he leads the school's Marathon Kids runners, a group of nearly 700 kids from kindergarten to grade five who call themselves the River Ridge Racers. “We have students who come from all corners of the world, from […]

George Adkins teaches physical education at River Ridge Elementary in Evans, Georgia. Along with his colleague Laura Paulos, he leads the school's Marathon Kids runners, a group of nearly 700 kids from kindergarten to grade five who call themselves the River Ridge Racers.

“We have students who come from all corners of the world, from all socio-economic backgrounds and from diverse families,” says Adkins. “This is partly due to a large military base and a medical field in our region. Before and after school activities allow students to move around indoors or outdoors on a daily basis. We have two recess periods each day for the students to run and play. They have a love for PE and love to learn different ways to get fit and stay healthy.


River Ridge started running a race track 14 years ago. “We used coffee sticks to track student turns because they were made of plastic. For record keeping, we used Excel, which turned out to be a lot of work - transferring the names of the students to different classes each year and wiping the slate off. It was a job to try to track when a student got a reward. "

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Adkins knew he and coach Paulos would have to change the way they handled PE. "I realized that handing out sticks wasn't going to work in keeping track, so I asked other PE teachers across the country a question on a blog I read, and a teacher from Wisconsin responded. She gave me information about Marathon Kids for research purposes.

Coach Adkins says the program is “the best I have found because of the ease of use, data available on each student, and customer service / technical support, in addition to being a free program. I shared it in my riding, and now we have another school that has started using the program. "

Depending on their age, River Ridge Racers typically cover a mile to three miles at a time during their trail time. Adkins and Paulos use Kids Connect Marathon to track student mileage on their iPad and iPhone. “The ease of managing the program's 694 students was a snap. I can do it quickly, instantly replace their names / QR codes and see which students need more encouragement to increase their efforts on the track. "


Adkins has mostly in-person students this year, with only a handful of students learning from home due to the pandemic. He says their numbers will increase in January 2021, when more students return to class in person. “Keeping classes separate from each other is a challenge,” he says, “with disinfection and masks.” But he and coach Paulos make it work.

When the race gets tough, Adkins tells his students to keep going and going. “Most of them want to keep pace with their classmates. We don't let them sit down to rest, but encourage them to keep moving while walking until they feel better. Soon they start running again. He also motivates them with shouts and rewards when they reach distance milestones. “We also have a wall poster with the class leaders of the month.”

Adkins has noticed several benefits in his students since starting the Marathon Kids program. “They are more alert in the classes and eager to go running on the track. They are disappointed when it rains and they cannot do laps. He says obesity rates are high among Georgian children, so he and his colleagues are trying to instill healthy lifestyle lessons from kindergarten. “Illustrations, posters and demonstrations help students understand the importance of health and fitness. I want them to understand that fitness is a lifelong activity, so I tell them that they should find something like running that they can do and enjoy.

He recommends that other teachers and coaches try Marathon Kids. "This program is not intimidating and will go a long way to help you and your runners enjoy the activity and increase their efforts."


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Most people think of course as a solo venture. And while runners appreciate ( read : need ) quality “me time, ” there’s something quite powerful about running in a pack.

“Most of the time people join groups for the social experience, but the cool thing about a course group is that you can be a part of it without saying a word, ” says Scott Miller, founder of the Boulder Trail Running Breakfast Club. “It’s a great opportunity to connect. ”

Here, Miller plus five other course club founders, share tips for building—and sustaining—your own running club.

Jessamy Little, who founded the Cass Runners Club, a 100-plus person running group in London comprised of her business school classmates, suggests asking potential members what days, times, and locations work best with their schedules. Some groups may favor an early morning sweat sesh, while others may prefer meeting after work. “A recommendation for a newer club is to have two set running days, ” Little says. “One during the week that is more focused on ‘getting it done’ and one on weekends that can have a more ‘fun and footloose’ vibe. ” For Little’s group, the weekend runs were geared toward exploring new areas of the city.

“Don’t get discouraged if not a lot of people show up at first, ” says Marnie Kunz, founder of Runstreet, an NYC-based company that leads art runs—urban runs that pass by street art in cities across the U. S. When Kunz held her first art run in 2015, just one person came : a man on a bike. Kunz was disappointed, embarrassed, and considered canceling the whole thing. But the next week a few more people showed up, and then a few more. Soon, word got out. Runstreet has since hosted more than 200 runs in cities around the country “Realizing that everyone starts from scratch really helps, ” Kunz says.

Kunz stresses the importance of having your own website that houses all information about your runs along with photos. “Social media platforms can change—and not everyone is on every platform—so it helps to have everything in one place. ” Keep your communication consistent across platforms to help create a streamlined brand.

Let people know what they are getting themselves into, Miller says. His Boulder, Colorado-based group of 100-plus members meets every Saturday for a long trail run ( anywhere between two to six hours ) followed by a group breakfast. Because the group’s runs cover a wide range of terrain, he wrote several articles explaining the general variétés of conditions runners can expect and the group’s approximate pace along with safety tips.

The articles are published on the group’s MeetUp page, and when a new person signs up, Miller sends them the reading material. “If your group is not a beginner group, you need to make that clear, ” Miller says. “You don’t want people to show up and have a bad time. I try to be really descriptive about the time, distance, and elevation of our runs so people know what they are in for. ”

Many members of Miller’s group take photos during the runs and post them to the group’s page. He says it helps draw new members. “When people are looking for a course group and they see pictures of runs in amazing areas, people smiling—both men and women—they see that it’s a mixed group that likes to be social and have fun. ”

Frankie Ruiz, cofounder of the Miami Marathon and founder of the Baptist Health South Florida Brickell Run Club, a free, once-a-week, Miami-based group of about 400 runners, can count on one hand the number of times he’s cancelled runs throughout the program’s nine-year tenure.

“Our main message is that we don’t cancel, ” he says. “If it’s really rough out, we’ll go to a stationnement garage or go indoors and do a core session. ” He says this has helped build the club’s reputation as a consistent amenity offered by the city. “Even if a runner doesn’t show up, I think there’s a comfort knowing that there is something in your city that doesn’t stop. ”

“If you have new people coming in, you can’t assume that they know the rules and guidelines, ” Ruiz says. “Communication needs to be all the time. ” Even though the group’s “weather-proof policy” may be well understood among current members, every time the skies get gloomy, the club blasts their social channels with reminders that the runs are still on. It also helps to communicate the planned route, distance, and pace in advance so that new members can plan their mazout and attire accordingly.


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