University of Texas helps Marathon Kids kick off its six-month healthy and active lifestyle program
Oct. 9, 2010
Kfir Goldberg, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas - UT athletes and coaches gathered at Mike A. Myers Stadium Saturday, but they were not the athletes on display that morning. Twenty-thousand Austin-area youth, their parents and teachers began a 6-month journey to create a healthy and active lifestyle at the 14th annual Marathon Kids Kick-Off.
The community-based fitness program welcomed kindergarten through fifth-grade students to walk or run the program's ceremonial first lap with Texas' athletes lining the track to cheer them on. After speeches from Austin's mayor Lee Leffingwell and Texas women's track and field head coach Bev Kearney, the kids began the first leg of their marathon, starting to build a healthy community.
"There was a two-year study by UT School of Public Health that proved that we make significant changes in children's lives who do this program," Marathon Kids founder/director Kay Morris said. "It takes 30 days to acquire a habit, and they're acquiring this habit for a love of running and making healthy food choices over six months."
The Marathon Kids program encourages these kids to run or walk 26.2 miles in increments of a quarter-mile or half-mile over a six month period, while also committing to eating five servings of fruit or vegetables 26.2 days a month.
Marathon Kids has continued to grow every year, motivating more kids to be active and promoting a healthy future. This year, over 80,000 Austin-area youth are registered for the program, to go along with children participating in eight other cities across the country - Dallas, Houston, Rio Grande Valley, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, El Paso and the Navajo Nation.
The children participating in the Austin Kick-Off have a special opportunity to run and walk with UT athletes. "We want our children to be embraced by the university and feel completely comfortable being on a college campus, so that it sparks their imagination that one day they will go to college," Morris emphasized. "And when they see the UT athletes, they feel a real warmth, and know that they can be like those athletes someday."
Athletes across Texas men's and women's track and field, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, women's basketball, rowing, softball and baseball teams lined the track to cheer on each runner as they ran their lap. All the athletes then gathered at the end of the event to sign autographs and speak with the kids.
"It is so inspirational for a lot of these kids. It is one thing to see these athletes on TV, but when you see them up close and they're cheering you, it makes such a difference," Marathon Kids board of directors member David Quintanilla said. "You can see it in their faces. They come off this track, and they're just glowing. They leave here feeling like accomplishing this program is something they can do."
While this is a great event for the participating children and families, it is a special opportunity for the Texas student-athletes to be with some of their biggest fans as well. "It makes you realize that you are a role model for these kids and they really look up to you," sophomore thrower Hayden Baillio noted. "I see the biggest smiles on their faces when they get to high-five every single athlete. It would have been great to participate in this when I was a kid, we're all having a lot of fun out here."
The Marathon Kids program will culminate in February with this year's participants expected to beat last year's mark of at least 86% completion. For more information on Marathon Kids or to make a donation to help keep the program free and available for youth around the country, please visit www.MarathonKids.org.