these efforts he has identified four elements that make his running programs a success:

  • Having an effective leader

  • Assembling a team of people with similar athletic abilities to offer each other moral support

  • Training for a cause or goal

  • Having the proper equipment


Marathon Kids is a 12-year-old grassroots initiative that has grown to become a national nonprofit organization. The program was the vision of Kay Morris, who came up with the idea for Marathon Kids while participating in one of Carrozza’s inspirational running classes. Marathon Kids is a voluntary, free, school- and community-based program in which children in grades K–5 of all physical abilities are engaged to make a pledge to physical activity by running or walking 26.2 miles over 6 months. Children are given a running log in which they tally their miles on one side and record on the other the 26.2 days of every month that they eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Each year, the Marathon Kids program culminates in a final mile medal celebration held at a college or university with Olympians in attendance to sign autographs. Access to the program is promoted through school activities and free transportation to events.

Morris pointed out that the program represents an excellent model of adaptability, particularly in inner cities. Marathon Kids currently registers 60,000 children in grades K–5 in Austin; 41,000 in Dallas; 20,000 in Houston; nearly 20,000 in Los Angeles; and about 5,000 in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley. The program recently expanded to include Baltimore and Chicago; another 300 towns and cities are on the waiting list, along with cities in 14 foreign countries. Morris attributes much of the program’s success to “the perfect intersection of substance and symbolism.” Both children and parents readily understand the concept of the program, and the excitement elicited in the children often is transferred to the parents.

Morris noted that the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has provided funding to study measurable changes over 2 years of Marathon Kids. Endpoints to be evaluated include changes in BMI, as well as shifts in children’s self-perception.


ACTIVE Life is a first-of-its-kind social movement launched in Austin to combat the youth obesity epidemic. ACTIVE Life regards obesity as one

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