Spring 2009

They May Be Small, but They Still Go the Distance


As childhood obesity statistics grow in Texas, more than 50,000 Central Texas children are moving in a positive direction, thanks to a program called Marathon Kids®.

Founded 13 years ago in Austin, Marathon Kids is a free, community-based fitness program in which students from kindergarten through fifth grade run and walk the 26.2 miles of a marathon, not in one day, but in 1/4 to 1/2 mile increments over a 6-month period.

The goal of Marathon Kids is for children to develop and enjoy a healthy lifestyle and to learn the importance of maintaining it throughout their lives.  The program also helps to intervene with "at-risk" children who are in danger of obesity and Type II diabetes.

Running a marathon can be an intimidating endeavor for anyone, but these youngsters welcome the opportunity to participate. Parents and children meet to kick off the first 1/2 mile and then meet again to finish the last 1/2 mile. As the kids cross the finish line, they feel a sense of accomplishment as they are awarded a medal for their efforts.

Austin public relations executive and runner Kay Morris founded Marathon Kids in 1996 to encourage children and their families to build a love and habit of running and walking and to make healthy food choices. A recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Marathon Kids now has programs in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Rio Grande Valley.

With many school districts cutting physical education hours due to budget considerations, the free Marathon Kids program fills an important need. Its operations are funded entirely by sponsorships, grants, individual donations and in-kind donations. In the Austin area, Whole Foods Market sponsors the program for public school districts, home schools and private schools, to help Central Texas children be healthy, happy and fit to go the distance.

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Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.