The ING New York City Marathon is among the most popular in the world, so popular, in fact, that many participants have to enter through a lottery. But thousands of students across the country each year are treated to their own ING race experience, complete with a medal at the end of the course.
And they don’t even have to go to New York to do it.
ING’s Run for Something Better
brings free running programs to schools across the country. For four, six, eight or even 15 weeks, students are taught the basics of running and how to train properly for a race. Then they hit the pavement and log cumulative miles, some even working to reach a marathon distance of 26.2 miles. At the end of the program, schools often offer a final 1.1 mile race day.
“We try to creative the festival, the experience, of an adult’s marathon or half-marathon for them,” says Suzanne Sullivan
, who oversees the program as ING’s director of cause-related marketing. “They’ll experience the crowds, people cheering them on, and when they cross the finish line they’ll get a medal.”
Since it was launched in 2003, more than 100,000 kids have taken part in the ING program, logging more than 3.2 million miles between them, Sullivan notes.
At Manorhaven Elementary in Port Washington, N.Y. about 140 students in the fourth and fifth grade spent much of their fall logging miles during physical education class, before school and during recess, P.E. teacher Megaera Regan tells The Inside Track. Along the way, students earned special charms every time they logged five miles, and ING even held a running-themed assembly where kids received orange water bottles and shoe laces.
Eventually, the students took part in an in-school race and their town’s annual Turkey Trot 5K, held on Thanksgiving day.
“This is the most exciting program we’ve had, and we’ve tried a lot of different programs,” Regan says. “This has caught on like wildfire.”
Regan says teachers reported their students were more focused in class after a run. She notes that one teacher told her one of his students suffering from ADHD in particular made huge strides in class. Students who took part also scored highly on a cardiovascular test they must take each year, which Regan attributes to the running program.
Manorhaven Elementary was able to take part in the program because of a grant they received from ING, Regan says (the school used the money to pay for the Turkey Trot entry fees for kids whose families couldn’t afford it). That grant program is available every year, and ING typically issues at least 50 grants to schools, Sullivan says.
ING also runs ING Kids Rock
, a similar program that helps kids train for a road race that’s coordinated alongside the Rock and Roll Marathon series, Sullivan adds.
“It’s about empowerment and building self-esteem,” Sullivan says. “We’ve heard a lot of kids say things like, ‘I didn’t think I could do this.’ There are a lot of kids who now enjoy running and will now continue, and that’s what we’re obviously hoping for.”