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Marathon Kids program goes virtual this year, urges families to get active

Marathon Kids program goes virtual this year, urges families to get active


Leif Kaufman starts to run in the Last Try at Summer Kids Triathlon at Papio Bay in 2019.

One young fitness buff has been tracking miles with a chain of paper loops.

Others have been using colorful pens to keep track of miles on paper.

Kids across Nebraska are logging walks, runs, bike rides and other physical activity through Nebraska Extension’s Marathon Kids club.

The traditional format of Marathon Kids, a national program, would have kids gather and be active together, each at his or her own pace, while building confidence.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers decided to switch to a virtual format this year, said Donnia Behrends, registered dietitian and extension educator for Nebraska Extension.

“Knowing that families were going to be spending more time together, one of the main emphases that our health leaders have been promoting is to stay active for your physical and mental health,” Behrends said. “What a great opportunity to share these resources we had already bought into and were already loving into a virtual manner.”

In the program, kids track their miles, with the goal of completing the equivalent of four marathons, or about 105 miles.

It isn’t just for runners. Participants can track miles that they have walked, jogged, skipped or crawled, Behrends said. The main goal is for families to get out and get active.

“A family run doesn’t necessarily look like you out there, running an 8-minute mile,” Behrends said. “It might look like you out as a family, running a little, walking a little, carrying your kid a little. It’s all about being active. It’s not about setting world records.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to spend more time at home. Tracking miles can be a motivator, Behrends said, and getting out can help to break up the day and burn off some energy.

While it’s designed for kids, Behrends said, it’s also open to parents, grandparents or anyone else who wants to join in.

Participation in the program is free. The first step is to join the group’s Facebook page. Printable mileage logs can be found online as well as ideas for warm-up and cool-down activities.

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