As people seek motivation on how to best achieve fitness goals and new year’s resolutions, one can gain inspiration from the efforts of children. Now in its sixth year, the Bobcat Marathon Club at Langston Hughes Elementary School continues to show the importance of staying active and the benefits for those who participate.
Following a $1,500 grant from LiveWell Lawrence, the Bobcat Marathon Club expanded in 2011. At the end of 2010, 101 children were enrolled in the marathon club. Seventy-six members actively participated, which meant each individual completed more than 10 miles throughout the year. The club’s momentum continued in fall 2011 with 232 participants, 194 of whom were active participants. Twenty-one of those students completed at least one marathon and one student completed the distance of two marathons.
Going the distance is just one of the benefits for a child enrolled in marathon club. In addition to the pride they feel from meeting the challenge to run or walk 26.2 miles, kids also benefit from:
- Having fun- Kids walk or run with their friends and socialize.
- Waking up- If you meet before school, the kids go to class energized from the fresh air and feel ready for the day.
- Developing sustainable exercise habits- Kids participate in a regular exercise routine that requires a commitment and persistence on their part.
- Setting and realizing long-term goals- Kids work for a long time and feel a very different sense of fulfillment than the instant gratification to which they’ve become accustomed.
- Accessing fitness- Kids who aren’t the most coordinated or the best athletes in the class learn that they can participate at their own pace. Kids that haven’t played organized sports can now “get out there” and feel good while doing it.
- Being outside- The time it takes to walk or run helps students overcome the “nature deficit disorder” that many sociologists discuss.
- Discovering themselves- Kids who had no idea or interest in running develop as runners and learning they have stamina, strides and the conditioning necessary to be a runner in the future.
- Community outreach- Clubs are a perfect avenue to host exchange runs with other schools, conduct food drives, recycle running shoes to be used for playground mulch and other activities that involve children in something bigger than themselves.
- Participation in a non-competitive, recreational activity- There are no winners or losers at marathon. It is not a race. Kids who keep working finish and they form a collective group that cheers for one another and enjoy seeing their friends meet the 26.2-mile challenge.
In addition to being active within the Marathon Club, the Langston Hughes students participated in the 2012 Red Shoe Calendar, which supports the Willow Domestic Violence Center. This year’s theme is, “Bullying is not accepted here.” The kids will be featured in the month of December wearing red shoes.
The Bobcat Marathon Club has helped launch approximately 13 marathon clubs at local schools including Sunset Hill, Sunflower, Pinckney and Deerfield. Corpus Christi brought its marathon club back with some enthusiastic parents and a Bobcat “Marathon in a Box” kit. Additional kits are expected to be sent out this year to start more clubs and expand the group’s efforts.
“With the help of LiveWell Lawrence, we’ve been able to financially cover the cost of the kits and we’ve been very successful at getting the word out about starting a marathon club,” said Carrie Mandigo, Bobcat Marathon Club committee co-chair. “This is truly an all volunteer-based program that wouldn’t exist without the efforts of our parents.”
For grade school students who can’t participate in their schools’ marathon club, the HyVee One Mile at a Time Marathon Club is now available. The program, which kicked off in October, has students complete the miles on their own with their last 1.2 miles finished at the HyVee Lawrence Half Marathon in April.
Marathon clubs benefit our community by emphasizing the importance of physical fitness to children in a fun and challenging way. It’s important to support these efforts and model after the students’ success. The new year has only just begun; it’s never too late to get moving!