News & Media

Doing it for the kids

The Big Half’s mission to encourage new runners into the sport is mirrored in the work the organisers do to support a range of grass roots projects in the capital.

London Marathon Events Ltd, who also operate the Virgin Money London Marathon and Vitality Westminster Mile and London 10,000 events, has given funding to a variety of initiatives, including Marathon Kids.

Delivered by the charity Kids Run Free, Marathon Kids is a programme aimed at primary schools, setting their children the goal of running the marathon distance over the course of the academic year.

Founder Martine Verweij came up with the idea to deliver a scheme that enabled schools to measure and celebrate their children’s achievements and to create the opportunity for every child to take part in an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis.

“We have 92 schools now,” she explains. “The focus of our programme is to achieve a very high attendance rate. 95 per cent of our children who get offered the programme actually take part.”

With London Marathon funding, Verweij’s team researched and developed a suite of tools to ensure such good participation numbers, and to make it easy for schools to operate the initiative.

“London Marathon helped us to focus on making sure the programme provided all the tools a school need to include every child.”

The result is a simple model that involves setting out a course on a field or playground if necessary, with an elastic band handed out for each lap run by each pupil.

These are handed back in in the classroom, says Verweij, “so we know exactly how far every single child has run. The ultimate aim is that every school is able to get their kids to run on a daily basis. We want to help every school to achieve that.”

In the previous academic year, the combined distance run by participating schools equated to travelling to the moon and back.

“We get the kids to set goals and track how far they run and we celebrate their performances and give them incentives. The programmes are mainly run by the children themselves.

“They will do the work; they will hand out the bands and operate the Excel programme, they get the email with the certificates to hand out. Perhaps we’re cultivating the next generation of event organisers as well!”

For more information on Kids Run Free and the Marathon Kids programme, click here.