By Betsy M. Ross
On Feb. 16, the Flying Pig Marathon powered by P&G received the Youth Program of the Year award at the Running USA conference in San Antonio for its Kids’ Marathon event. Organized by Robin Pendery, the Kids’ Marathon program guides youngsters through an “incremental” marathon while they learn good nutrition and reading habits. The last mile of their “marathon” is finished the Saturday of Marathon weekend, when participants cross the finish line of the full Marathon.
Robin, who’s also a member of the Flying Pig Wellness Team, talks about the Flying Pig Kids’ Marathon program:
Where did the idea for the Kids’ Marathon come from?
The idea for the Kids Marathon came about as Cincinnati was preparing for the inaugural Flying Pig Marathon in 1999. I had run a few marathons and witnessed the difference when cities had strong support and involvement from the community. It seemed many people did not know what a marathon was (thinking every 5k was a marathon) or didn’t realize the dedication involved. I wanted to inform youngsters in our community what the Flying Pig was about and get people to enjoy walking and running, particularly as a family and school. My children were in elementary school and I pitched the idea of an extracurricular family fitness marathon to the principal. He was very supportive and even offered to do one mile a week after school with students. They loved running with the principal. Its original name was The Terrace Park Flying Piglets Family Incremental Marathon … a mouthful!
How did you grow the event? Did other schools just start contacting you?
After that first year, the other two elementary schools in our district, Fairfax and Mariemont Elementary, caught on and did the program as well. We even did our Final Mile event at the school district high school track. Starting in 2007, we had a separate one mile event for the Kids Marathon and called it the Final Mile. This is when it REALLY took off! Last year we had 49 schools and youth groups participate, with 2,500 running the “Final Mile.”
How many youngsters do you think have participated in this program over the last 12 years?
Let’s guess 5,000 students have been some part of this over the years. If you assume they all completed their marathon, then we are looking at about enough miles to circle the globe two times!
Do you have to be a school group or class to participate?
No need to be a school or group. It was originated as a family fitness project and so we want families to download the Hog Log and do their miles together. Grandparents, siblings, tutors, mentors are all great fitness buddy examples that we have heard from. Many scout troops do this together, as well as running clubs and after school sites like Boys & Girls Clubs, recreation centers, YMCAs and church groups.
Why do you think it’s important for youngsters to get involved in running (or walking) at this early age?
Starting fitness at an early age and making it fun will hopefully lead to habits being formed and healthy behaviors being adopted for life. As children get older, they often lose interest in organized sports or become more interested in activities that do not promote health and fitness (except maybe in their gaming thumbs!). Completing the marathon distance and participating in such a fun and gratifying experience as the Flying Pig will hopefully encourage a continued interest in fitness and eating well.
Can adults participate along with the kids?
Adults are welcome to participate along with kids. We especially love it when families exercise together. The 26th Mile event is meant to be a celebration of the completion of marathon distance and many of the school groups run it together, including some teachers and parents.
Is it too late for my school to get involved in the kids’ marathon?
NO IT IS NOT TOO LATE! Download your own Hog Log (at www.flyingpigmarathon.com) and start tallying miles everyday. Even if the first 25 miles are not met by April 30th when we run the “26th Mile,” kids can just keep on tallying their miles. That is why we changed the name from Final Mile to 26th Mile. It is meant to start a lifetime of fitness and not end at a finish line of a race.
The Flying Pig Wellness Team is a panel of health, wellness and exercise experts offering advice to runners and walkers on nutrition, mental preparation, cross training and injury prevention. Find out more about the Flying Pig Wellness Team at www.flyingpigmarathon.com