Through the end of this month, Nike stores across the country are inviting shoppers to learn about three of their partner organizations and to donate $1 or more to these nonprofits dedicated to improving their communities through sport. While PeacePlayers and Girls Inc are two of the partners, we wanted to highlight, Marathon Kids, as another one of Nike’s amazing partners.
We asked Marathon Kids a few questions to learn more about their organization and understand the impact they are having on the community!
What type of impact are you seeing on children who start running in your program?
For many kids who join a Marathon Kids run club, it’s the first time they’ve been part of a team. We love hearing stories from coaches about shy kids becoming leaders and reluctant runners becoming the team’s biggest cheerleaders. Our clubs are inclusive, so kids of all athletic abilities can participate. Many of the runners start the season thinking there is no way they can run even one mile but learn that they can conquer great distances if they just tackle a little at a time. By the time they’re run a total of 26.2 miles, they’re saying marathons are a piece of cake and encouraging others to keep striving to reach their goals.
What have you learned as an organization over the last 25 years that others in this sport-based youth development space could learn from?
To have the greatest impact, you have to be committed to continuous innovation. In Ann Mei Chang’s book Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, she advises organizations to “fall in love with the problem, not their solution.” So, in that vein, we are constantly evolving our program to better tackle the problem of youth physical inactivity. This year, we introduced digital lap tracking for Marathon Kids run clubs. We’re not a tech company, so this was huge for us. But, within the first few months of launching our digital lap tracking app and reporting platform, we were able to dramatically expand access and increase equity by offering a version of our program for free.
Why do you think your Marathon Kids participants feel motivated to participate in the program?
Through our program, miles are achieved one lap at a time, one day at a time and tracked by kids in their paper mileage logs, or by coaches and volunteers using digital lap tracking. The tracking is key because kids quickly see how easy it is to reach 26.2 miles—the distance of a marathon—if they just run a little each day. Plus, runners are celebrated along the way (for both attitude and progress) and rewarded each time they reach a marathon milestone.
What do you think makes Marathon Kids coaches unique?
We don’t pay our coaches. They come to us because they are passionate about getting kids moving and are looking for tools to get kids in their community excited about physical activity. Marathon Kids Coaches like Kyle Black in Lampasas, Texas are making an incredible difference in the lives of the kids they serve. Here’s a great story that Coach Black shared about one of his runners.
“This is Riley. 9 weeks ago he told me I was crazy when I explained our Marathon Kids program. When he heard he would run 10 minutes every day he said it wasn’t possible. I started running with him and pushing him. Today I was proud to run the last half mile of his first marathon with him. Not only has he lost weight but he smiles more and really believes he can keep going. While we finished today, he asked what the next marathon distance would be. When I told him 52.4 he said, ‘That’ll be easy.’ Keep encouraging your kids. They listen more than you think.”