Return to Headlines

Long Distance Journey for West Lenoir Elementary Students

Most people in their lifetime do not realize the exhilaration of running a marathon, but at West Lenoir Elementary School, students are setting goals to not only finish one marathon but four marathons through the newly implemented Marathon Kids program.

“I want every student to experience the incredible accomplishment of running 104.8 miles in a school year,” said Sharon Abee, PE teacher at West Lenoir Elementary. “To an adult, it may sound impossible, but I know they can do it! Ultimately, it’s their choice.”

Marathon Kids is an organization that encourages running and walking for children at any fitness level. The primary goal through Marathon Kids is to log progress throughout a running season and complete four marathons, or 104.8 miles. At West Lenoir Elementary, Abee applied for and received a grant totaling $2,025 to fund 135 runners in her school Marathon Club. “Each student has the opportunity to run farther than they ever dreamed,” said Abee.

The students’ running is tracked this school year during the school day, generally during recess or PE class. “The kids have a purpose. They’re running,” said Abee. “They can run during recess or play, and since we started the program, it has cut down on issues on the playground.”

Principal Travis Gillespie said that this program has been a positive impact on the students and the school. “We greatly appreciate all the efforts of Sharon Abee to make this unique opportunity possible for our students.”

To help track the mileage of each student runner, Abee procured a program called EZ Scan funded by school-business partner Cloninger Ford of Morganton, owned by Larry Cloninger and managed by J.D. Abee. Each student is assigned a QR code and whenever they run a lap, the data is easily stored and used in charts and graphs for recognizing levels of achievement along their marathon journey.

As a little extra motivation, the students earn fun Nike rewards in the Marathon Kids program at specific milestones along the way and also earn Fitness Finders provided by Cloninger Ford. The Fitness Finders are charms that students collect and attach to a lanyard given to each participant. For every five miles, students earn a foot charm and for every 100 miles completed by the entire class, that gets them another charm. These colorful charms also include one for their birthday, another for significant mileage completed or being in the Top 30 for a specified running season. Abee said that she hands out charms whenever students do something amazing!

In addition to the Fitness Finders, the Marathon Kids program provides Nike rewards. After completion of the first marathon, or 26.2 miles, students receive a t-shirt, then the second and third marathons are celebrated with Nike shoestrings and shoe tags respectively. After the fourth and final marathon, they are awarded a unique Nike bracelet.

Abee inspires the students by modeling and training for her marathon runs. She is currently preparing for a 25k race in January, which is about 15.5 miles.

“This is more than teaching students about physical activity,” said Abee. “This is a confidence-building program, so they can believe in themselves and their potential.”