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Looking for a way to get students moving, learning healthy habits and setting them up for academic success? Our public elementary school has a very active Run Club. My husband and I started leading the Run Club at the beginning of the 2021/2022 school year. I get asked all the time how someone could start a Run Club at their child’s school, so I thought I would lay out my best tips and ideas to make Run Club “run” smoothly! The club is very popular at our elementary school. One in four children are active in it and nearly half of the students have attended at least one week of Run Club.
Launching Your Run Club
Once you have permission from administrators at your school, select a day, time and location for your Run Club. We meet every Tuesday morning from 7-7:30am at our school’s track. It’s a small, paved loop where 11 laps equals one mile. While Run Club starts at 7, students can arrive at any time. We make an announcement for “last lap” at about 7:28am. This gives students 15 minutes before the school bell rings to turn in their lanyards, gather their backpacks and get inside the school to grab breakfast or get straight to class.
At the start of the school year we sent every child home with a permission slip. Feel free to use this free printable template and change the details for your situation. One thing I plan to add to our permission slip next year is a QR code so parents can easily sign up for the Remind App. We use the Remind app to send out group text messages when we have to cancel meetings due to bad weather.
Run Club Graphics and Signage
I highly recommend using Fiverr to create an affordable logo for your Run Club. I inherited our logo from the previous club leadership, but I’ve used Fiverr for many projects like this and it’s extremely budget-friendly. I took our logo to a printing company called Emediagroup and had several signs made that we stake into the grass every week. They charged $9.50 for each double-side printed yard sign and $7.50 for single-side printed signs. We use these signs for the following messages:
- Pass on Left
- Walkers Keep Right
- Run Club Registration
- Keep Running!
- Don’t Give Up!
We also have one sign devoted to our Half Marathon Club and one sign dedicated to the Marathon Club. When students complete 144 laps (13.1 miles) they are honored as part of the Half Marathon Club. When they complete 288 laps (26.2 miles) they are honored as part of the Marathon Club.
Supplies for Run Club
There are a few key supplies you’ll need to keep your club running smoothly. We have a registration table and each week we have two volunteers man this table. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Two Notecard Boxes: I keep a card for each child alphabetized in these boxes. One box holds A-M last names and the other holds the N-Z last names.
- Poly Card Guides: You’ll just need one set. Keeping the cards organized will help your Run Club mornings go smoothly!
- 4×6 Plain Notecards: At the start of the year take your completed permission slips and create a note card for each child. Write their name in large letters at the top, along with their grade. Then create four columns on the front. When they show up to Run Club you’ll pull out their card and put the date at the top of one column. Every time they show up you’ll put the date at the top of a fresh column. You can fit four columns on each side of the note card so after 8 weeks of attendance you’ll have to make them a new name card.
- Packing Tape: After the first week, several of the cards got crumpled and ripped. I realized they needed reinforcement! I apply one strip of packing tape to cover up the name and fold it over to the back. This is where I clip on the lanyard and it works great to preserve the cards!
- Lanyards: Once you pull a child’s name card and write on the date, attach the card to a lanyard with a bear clip. The child will wear this around their neck so that volunteers can easily tally their laps.
- Sharpies: You’re going to need a stash of black Sharpies to make the name cards and to write the date on each column when kids arrive. I also have a bag of regular markers for volunteers to use as they mark off each runner’s laps.
Keeping Kids Motivated
I have discovered several ways to keep kids encouraged and motivated to attend weekly Run Club sessions.
- Weekly Lap Champs: We keep a spreadsheet of each child’s weekly laps by name and grade. So each week we know which child achieved the most laps in their grade. We highlight the column on their name card and attach a gold star sticker. I write a script each week that the student news reads during their morning broadcast so the kids can hear their names announced. We also announce the previous week’s Lap Champs at each Run Club around 7:15.
- Half Marathon Club: Since we are tracking the laps we know when kids reach Half Marathon status. At our school they have to run 144 laps to achieve this. If a child is close, I make a note and when they check in at Run Club I’ll tell them, “Martin, you only have to run 12 laps this morning to get a Half Marathon!” This is a huge motivation for them! They also get their name on the Half Marathon Club sign.
- Marathon Club: Once a child completes 288 laps they enter the Marathon Club! We cheer these kids on over the speaker during Run Club and everyone cheers for them. I make a big deal out of it and take their picture.
- 500 Club: We’ve only had a couple of kids reach this so far and will probably have a couple more by the end of the year. For this level we go all out with confetti poppers as they cross the finish line! I like these confetti poppers because they are biodegradable and give out a great cloud of color! I use two per child.
- Theme Weeks: We’ve had several theme weeks during Run Club. For instance, on the last Tuesday before Christmas break we had a Run, Run Rudolph. Kids got jingle bells and red noses! Some mornings are very dark because of Daylight Savings. Because of this, we have also had a Glow Run. We hand out glow bracelets, necklaces and light up rings. We also did a flashlight run on a particularly dark morning. We asked kids to bring flashlights for their morning run.
- Music: Nothing keeps the mood upbeat and fun like a great playlist! My husband is the Run Club DJ and he set up a playlist on Spotify that he shakes up from time to time. In December he added some fun holiday music. The school has a portable speaker that we borrow each week.
I started the year with a list of parents interested in volunteering for Run Club. So I created a group email and I had them sign up for spots with a Sign-Up Genius. But as the year went on and we hit our groove parents just showed up and did their job. I didn’t have to mess with the sign-up form anymore. I like having two volunteers on the registration table, one to do announcements and update the signs, and at least four parents to mark off each child’s laps as they circle the track. I have one parent who updates the spreadsheet each week and I handle making new name cards as the old ones get filled up. The system runs very smoothly and requires minimal work once you’ve got it going!
There are many studies proving the benefits of physical activity in helping our kids succeed academically. It stimulates brain growth, improves focus, and helps them learn. It’s a positive, healthy way for kids to get set up for a successful day of school, so I hope you have a lot of fun with your school’s Run Club!