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Five Ways to Track Miles for Your Run Club

Many schools like to track students’ mileage over time to show students their individual progress or work toward a collective school goal. From our experience, we can say that no one system works for every school. Variables such as the number of participants, run club location, and student age can all influence which system works best. Our first step when designing a tracking system with a school is to identify the space(s) where kids will be walking and running. Using a free walking/running app, we map out a route in those spaces and determine how many laps it takes to do a mile. Ideally we identify both an outdoor and indoor space. Simply turn on the app, complete a lap, and then divide 1 mile by the length of one lap to determine the number of laps needed to complete a mile. For schools that don’t have access to a tracking app, physical measurement methods to determine lap distance (like a measuring wheel) will work too. With your running routes and lap counts established, it’s time to decide how you’ll track those laps. Below are five tried-and-true tracking options our schools have implemented that should meet the needs of most run clubs.

1. Running Loyalty Card

Loyalty cards are not just for coffee and sandwiches. Purchase bulk index cards, or check out our printable lap tracker cards. Have students write their names on the top of the card. For each lap completed, use a hole punch or marker to denote that a lap was completed. Many schools organize and store the loyalty cards in an index cardholder after the sessions, with a tab dividing the different classes participating. At the end of the week, students then practice math by adding up the laps marked and dividing that number by the number of laps needed to complete a mile (e.g., if it takes 10 laps to complete a mile, and the child has 20 marks, then she ran 20/10 = 2 miles).

The 100 Mile Club also has some great individual mileage progress tracking options as part of their Certificate Path Program. At the end of the week, divide total laps by the amount of laps it takes to complete a mile. Coaches also like to keep this tracking method interesting by incorporating Mighty Milers Loopy Laps games into their programming.

2. Popsicle Stick (Or Coffee Stir Sick, Marble, Clothespin) Method

For this method, you will need a bulk quantity of popsicle sticks, marbles, coffee stir sticks, or clothespins. Most of our schools use popsicle sticks since they are easy to access, durable, and affordable in bulk. Although they are slightly more expensive, we highly recommend purchasing a colored variety. Our rule of thumb is to have the amount of sticks that would allow for the maximum number of miles participating students might cover in one session. For example, if it takes 20 laps to complete two miles and you have 20 students participating, have on hand 20 sticks per student, or 400 sticks. Most sites put the tracking sticks in a 5-gallon bucket or sand pail buckets at the starting line. As students complete laps, they receive one stick for each lap completed.

Some schools operate this method by challenging club members with the goal of completing a set amount of laps.  For instance, you can provide each student 10 popsicle sticks at the start. Instead of picking them up for each lap, have them drop one stick in a bucket for each lap they complete. This option has worked well for run clubs implemented at the start of PE or recess. The drop-off method helps to remove some of the burden of tracking since each student is completing the same number of laps/miles.

After the running session, students or the coach track the number of sticks collected on a tracking sheet like this one provided by another partner program, Just Run.

3. Miles for Smiles

You can also track students by drawing a smiley face on their hand. Using a washable marker, create one feature of a smiley face for each lap completed. Most sites add the features of eyes, nose, and smile (i.e., 4 laps). Additional features like eyebrows, an oval shape for the head, and hair can be added to get to eight laps. You can structure this tracking method so each student completes just a smiley face, or have students try to get as many smiles as possible. This method has worked well in larger running spaces where it takes only a small amount of laps to complete a significant distance.

4. Billion Mile Race Athlete of the Day Pedometer Tracking

Pedometers are an effective way to motivate students to increase their physical activity; however, we know from experience that cost can affect the feasibility of this method for many schools. To overcome this obstacle, some schools operate by empowering one student as the “Billion Mile Race Athlete of the Day” and having them wear a pedometer. Ideally, this method serves a three-fold purpose of encouraging that student to be extra active during the club session, reducing the cost burden by purchasing a smaller amount of pedometers, and reducing the overall tracking burden. This tracking style works especially well for clubs that lead more games (like relay races or tag) than lap-based activities, have limited time to track miles, or do not have larger running spaces. After the run club session, the coaches use the steps accumulated by that student as the baseline data for the rest of the club. They then enter them into the Steps to Miles Billion Mile Race Calculator to get the mileage total for all students for the session. Many schools appreciate this system when they use programs such as GoNoodle to earn miles too.

5. Lap-Tracking Technologies

Companies are helping to integrate technology into run clubs by creating automated lap tracking systems including EZ Scan, Run Club, StrideTrack, Student Lap Tracker, and Track the Miles. Systems typically require at least one tablet as well as a yearly license fee (starting at $150/year) for the application. Most work by creating printable barcodes for each student. Before the first running session, you specify in the system how many laps equals a mile. As students complete their laps, they stop by either the tablet or scanner to have their barcode scanned. The scan records one lap as completed. After the running session, most systems sync the running data, providing coaches with information like miles accumulated that session, miles throughout the month, and miles accumulated yearly. Some systems also allow you to create classroom competitions and certificates of mileage accomplishments, while others allow family members to see their child’s mileage progression. In the past, we have provided lap-tracking systems to Billion Mile Race schools as part of our grant and prize opportunities. Overall, the biggest barrier to utilizing these systems will be sustaining the yearly license fee required for all current models.

Showcase Your Miles

Whatever system you use, make sure to display all those hard-earned miles. Highlight your collective mileage total on your Billion Mile Race profile. You can also challenge your run club by setting your school’s yearly mileage goal. This will help to unite your club members in a collective goal before the end of the school year. If you have not received a dry-erase Billion Mile Race tracking poster to showcase your miles, log some miles, and shoot us a message at billionmilerace@tufts.edu to receive one for free!

Champion Spotlight: Katie Staffaroni

We got a chance to chat with Katie Staffaroni, PE Teacher at Leslie M. Stover Middle School in South Carolina. She told us all about her run club and its participation in the Billion Mile Race. Check it out! 

How does your school generate miles for the Billion Mile Race? 

We have our Stover Run Club in the fall and spring. Kids also rack up miles running down during our warm-up in PE and also in the timed mile. 

When does your club run?

Stover Run Club meets for eight weeks in the fall and six weeks in the spring. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday after school for an hour. At the end of each season, kids run in a community 5k race that's the culmination of all their training. Six to eight weeks has seemed like just the right amount of time that our kids need to train and get ready. This fall, we're going to run the Harborside Lights 5K, which is right nearby in Columbia, South Carolina. It's at night, and they have the course all lit up with Christmas lights, and kids get glow bracelets and necklaces to wear while they are running. It's tons of fun and the kids love it! 

How do you track miles? 

There are two different loops that we use. One loop is a sixth of a mile long, so I just stand at the start and make a checkmark for each runner as they pass me. The other loop is exactly one mile. We use that loop once kids have some practice under their belts and their fitness has gotten better. The kids all run one loop in small groups with their friends, and I’ll either run with them or ride my bike. Then I’ll record one mile for every kid in the Billion Mile Race. By the end of the season, kids are able to do two and even three loops.

How did you learn about Billion Mile Race, and how have you spread the word to other schools in your area? 

I learned about Billion Mile Race at a conference and got really interested. I've loved participating with my kids, and I find it easy to talk about things I love. Earlier this year I got to present about Billion Mile Race to teachers and athletic trainers at our school district's annual instructional fair, and people really liked learning about it! 

How do you make walking/running fun for your students?

 It’s important to try to add some variety to each practice. We’ll go different distances or even just change the direction we run in so it feels a little different. At the end of every practice, kids get 10 minutes of free play time, and they get to choose whether to play soccer, play tag, or do some other game. That mixes things up, too. The kids also love getting to run with their friends, so that helps keep it fun.

How do you motivate students and/or recognize their achievements?

The kids really like seeing their progress. The 5K is a big motivator, since it gives them a chance to show the gains they’ve made. And little things like high fives and words of encouragement go a long way, too. I also give the kids stickers every time they come to practice, and it’s amazing how much they love those stickers! Each week, I name a runner/walker of the week, and that child gets a shout-out and a picture in our morning video announcements. After kids participate in a race, we also announce the names of all the runners and display a picture. We’ve seen some kids get super motivated. I had a girl last year who had never run before except the mile in PE, but she built up so much interest in run club that now she runs cross-country at the high school. She’ll go out and run 3 or 4 miles just for fun. It’s really awesome. 

6 Tips for Staying Hydrated This Summer

Water is an essential part of everyone’s daily diet and maintaining proper hydration is vital for maintaining normal cardiovascular function during exercise and daily activities. Dehydration can make it difficult for kids to safely walk, run and play due to increased dizziness and fatigue. It’s super important that kids get enough water, especially during the hotter months, to help them walk and run all those miles!

Daniel Schultz, Registered Dietitian and one of our awesome team members at Billion Mile Race explains: “Making sure you are hydrated helps your heart and body perform necessary functions to keep you going throughout the day. Not drinking enough water can make you feel tired and cause you not to perform as well during a sporting event like walking and running.”

In order to avoid dehydration especially in the summer months, kids should increase their daily water needs depending on level of play, sun exposure, humidity and heat levels. Increasing water intake doesn’t need to be hard though, we have 6 easy tips to keep you and your kids hydrated all summer long!

  1. Drink water before, during and after active play and games – Try drinking 1 to 1 ½ cups of water 30 minutes before active play. Remember to take water breaks every 15-20 minutes and be sure to replenish with water after playing to stay hydrated and happy!
  2. Include water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet- Watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and cucumbers have high water content and can be incredibly refreshing snacks!
  3. Look for cues- If your mouth is already dry, it’s a good sign that you need to drink water. Start to look for cues that you are thirsty to get better at responding to your body’s needs
  4. Add some flavor! - Sugary beverages like iced tea and fruit drinks have a ton of added sugar, which provides no nutritional benefit and often leads to unhealthy weight gain. Instead, try adding lemon slices, mint or strawberry tops to your water for added flavor. It makes drinking water more fun for kids and tastes delicious!
  5. Healthy habits – Studies show that when water is in plain sight, kids drink more. Start and end the day with a glass of water and make it into a healthy habit that will stick beyond just the summer months
  6. Switch it up- Try switching it up with coconut water or by making coconut water ice cubes, which adds some sweetness and a boost of electrolytes Summer time can be especially difficult to ensure proper hydration but with these tips you and your students will be hydrated and ready to get back outside in no time!

Reference: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/1182

Shoe Makeover Contest Winners: Cumberland Trace Elementary!

Over 400 schools across the country entered our first ever #ShoeMakeoverContest and in the end one school took home the grand prize of brand new New Balance shoes for their entire school: Cumberland Trace Elementary School in Bowling Green, Kentucky!

Over 600 pairs of brand new New Balance sneakers were awarded to the students of Cumberland Trace in honor of their hard work and dedication to the New Balance Foundation Billion Mile Race.

The Billion Mile Race is designed to boost in-school physical activity and inspire a lifetime of movement. The children at Cumberland Trace have certainly inspired all of us here at the Billion Mile Race. The students at Cumberland Trace collectively walked, skipped and ran over 7,000 miles and even raised money for causes such as Relay for Life and Walk for Water.

Check out our interview with Amy Oliver, PE teacher at Cumberland Trace who helped organize the entire day:

How did you hear about Billion Mile Race?

I heard about the Billion Mile Race when I was in DC for a conference. We already had a running and walking club that was running for several years called Track Tigers. We also had monthly fun runs at the school and Mile Mondays.

Cumberland Trace is doing amazing work not only walking and running, but raising money for other causes. What was the motivation behind those initiatives?

The adults at the school had been involved with Relay for Life and we wanted to get the kids involved, so they started doing the Children Relay for Life, which has been going on for several years.

Walk for Water was a personal passion of mine. There are many people who don’t have clean drinking water and I wanted to do something to make a difference. Water is my favorite drink and the fact that people don’t have clean drinking water was unacceptable to me. We are privileged to have clean drinking water and need to raise awareness that not everyone has the same access. One of the assistants at the school is very involved in Walk for Water and we teamed up to make it happen!

When you found out you won the Shoemakeover Contest, how did you keep it a secret from the rest of the school? 

It was insane! It is really hard to keep a secret that big! When they told me we won I started to scream really loud [laughs]. I told several teachers, the principal and office staff- I couldn’t keep it a secret by myself!

What were the reactions of the students and parents when you announced that your school won the contest?

They were completely excited! The younger kids didn’t know they were getting a pair to take home and there were several parents and kids that jumped out of the bleachers! Especially when they saw the shoes being wheeled out they were like oh my goodness!!

There were several students who just don’t have a good pair of tennis shoes – they were just speechless. Most parents said they were telling everybody about how they all won shoes, they were so appreciative. The teachers were also so happy and excited! These teachers knew which students it really helped. When we took the students into the classroom they were so giddy! They had a new spring in their step, jumping up and down jogging in place and holding the boxes up and jumping up and down in place. They were so happy!

What advice would you give a school looking to join BMR? Why should they join?

I think walking and running is an easy way to get kids moving and gets them motivated to give them a goal to see how much they can walk or run. And start small! Teachers can start it as part of your classroom – just think of little ways, because they add up and make a big impact.

How did joining BMR help you bring walking and running at your school to the next level?

Last year we walked about 1,600 miles over the year- but this year by joining the Billion Mile Race we set higher goals and planned activities for how to get more miles. The kids were so motivated! We used mileage marker cards and the kids always wanted more miles! It motivated them to keep working hard because they knew their miles were contributing to overall miles.

Overall it was an awesome experience! Thank you so much to everyone at Billion Mile Race – it was such a memorable day and it’s a day the kids will never forget!

Georgia's Hamilton E.Holmes Elementary Meets 10,000 Mile Goal

We had a chance to chat with Tony Simmons, PE teacher at Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia. Their school reached their goal of 10,000 miles! Read below to see how they did it and how your school can also be part of the momentum!

Why did your school decide to join the Billion Mile Race?

I saw an email about the New Balance Foundation Billion Mile Race and I immediately thought our school would like to be involved. We like to teach team activities and when we saw that kids across the country would be doing this together, we want to join in and teach teamwork. Being involved in a larger movement was a big incentive for our students. 

How did your students participate in the Billion Mile Race? 

We had an existing walking and running program that was part of the PE curriculum for cardiovascular fitness, however the Billion Mile Race really took it to a new level. The students really connected to the goal and team aspect of The Race. The kids really pushed themselves because they were connected to something greater than just their school. All aspects of physical fitness improved because of their participation in the Billion Mile Race- this is the best we have ever done!

How has joining BMR influenced the students at your school?

The fact that we were involved with many other schools and that concept of being a team is a big theme at our school. We’re all working toward one large common goal and the kids felt part of a larger family. That concept is threaded throughout the program and the school.  

What would you say to a school considering joining The Race? Why should they give it a shot?

It’s important because in every aspect of society, in any work environment, that concept of working together and being a team is very important. No matter where you work, it is important to work toward one common goal. It’s not just one; it’s all of us together achieving this goal.

Most classes teach goal oriented activities, so setting goals is very important. Our school was number 1 in the county, and number 7 in Georgia! The kids saw that ranking and it made the kids feel very special. We also communicated it regularly to parents -  we were really proud of it!

What will be your goal NEXT year? 

Next year we're shooting for 15,000 miles! We want 5,000 more miles and we know what we need to do to push it to reach our new goal. This has been a highlight for our school this year and we really appreciate it. It's one of the best programs we hope it will spread to our whole school district and metro Atlanta -everyone needs to be connected! 

Champion Spotlight: Parent & Run Club Coach Allison Lincecum

APRIL 27, 2016 - Allison Lincecum leads a run club at her children's school in Boston, Massachusetts. We sat down with her to learn more about her experience as a parent champion for the Billion Mile Race. 

Tell us why you're passionate about physical activity, what you do to stay active, and/or any life experiences that have shaped your mindset about maintaining an active lifestyle.

I am passionate about physical activity because of the benefits it has to both the mind and body! I've been running for about 30 years. It helped me get back in shape after 3 kids but more importantly it has always been a way for me to clear my head and reach my inner self. I love how it can be solitary or a way to connect with friends by training together and supporting each other.

When and why did you start your school's run club?

I started the Haley Running Club in the fall of 2014 because I felt that kids are expected to do a lot of brain training without much body training. Recess has been whittled down to 15 minutes per day which is not enough activity for anyone to stay mentally focused. I also wanted to introduce a practically free activity that kids can learn to love and do without worrying about fees to play as so many sports offered these days require.

Are you planning any events for students this school year?

We are pushing our kids this year by holding the first Haley 5K Race! Over 100 students, Haley staff, and family members have registered to run. We could not be more excited to have kids see the adults in their lives put on their shoes and run, inspire each other, and have fun. We hope this will become an annual event!

How often do you post miles to the Billion Mile Race?

We try to post miles at least once a week as we tally miles for the running club. Next year we hope to tally miles for more activities where walking and running is happening at Haley. This would include miles walked to school, miles all our students do to tain for the annual Turkey Trot, and miles kids do in the BOKS program.

What would you say to other parents in the Billion Mile Race community who want to start a run club at their child's school?

The #1 thing parents wanting to start a program should know is that the kids WANT to run and other parents WANT to help! The hardest part is deciding that you have the time to do it and asking for other parents volunteers. Once I coordinated our program I had more parent help than I expected. This allowed me to take extra students which was great since so many more students signed up than I had even hoped! It is rewarding beyond words and a great way to become an integral part of your school community.

Thank you Allison for taking the time to chat with us and share your story!

Champion Spotlight: Jen Wyatt

MARCH 21, 2016 - Behind every Billion Mile Race school, there is a champion (or two!) at the helm. This post begins a series of 'Champion Spotlights' where we'll profile a champion leading walking and running at his or her school.

To kick us off, meet Jen Wyatt, 2nd grade teacher at Russell Elementary School in Dorchester, MA.

Tell us why you're passionate about physical activity, what you do to stay activie, and/or any life experiences that have shaped your mindset about maintaining an active lifetstyle.

I'm passionate about physical activity because of the way it makes me feel. In addition to the obvious benefits for the body, physical activity is so beneficial for the mind and the soul! Both the encouragement of my parents and the rural New Hampshire town in which I grew up set me up to be a very active youngster; my sister and I were always playing outside, hiking in the woods, riding bikes, swimming, and playing all kinds of sports. This continued into my adult life and I've always enjoyed the energy and excitement of trying all kinds of fun ways to stay physically active. I've dabbled in almost all kinds of fitness, but particularly enjoy outdoor bootcamp and conditioning classes, weightlifting classes, and most of all yoga. I completed my 200 hour yoga teacher certification in 2015 and I now am a part-time yoga instructor in addition to my job as a 2nd grade teacher. I even teach weekly yoga classes to the other teachers at my school.

Can tell us about your school's participation in the Billion Mile Race and about your work with students to get them physically active?

Our school is participating in the Billion Mile Race through our participation in the 100 Mile Club! Through this program students keep track of miles walked or run around the school yard, at neighborhood races, and on walking field trips. Over the course of the year they strive to reach 100 miles. I have been a 100 Mile Club coach for two years in a row now and am in love with the program. In addition to staying physically active the students learn so much from this program - goal setting, responsibility, perseverance, and even honesty. They learn the importance of taking care of their body while learning what it means to work toward their own version of success - their personal best.

In addition to the 100 Mile Club, the students love the yoga and meditation that they practice with me each day. They know that I have another job as a yoga instructor and 'namaste' has become a part of their regular vocabulary. Our frequent yoga and silly dance breaks keep them active, stretched and focused so that they stay ready to learn.

Finish Strong With These Snack Ideas

FEBRUARY 9, 2016 - Coordinating a walking or running event is a great way to fundraise or simply bring students and families together to get active. As you plan your event, take the opportunity to use the finish line snacks as a teaching moment. All too often, races and events send mixed messages to young athletes about healthy living, with junk food being the expected snack after a race. The use of unhealthy snacks can lead young athletes to associate physical activity as a means to earn junk food. This can be especially troublesome with short duration races where some participants might not even break a sweat. Get creative and show your racers that healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand with these tasty snacks:

Race Baton Fruit Kabob

  • Kids get a big kick out of kabobs, and fruits with high water content really hit the spot after a race. Use a variety of fruits to create a delicious race baton kabob. Here are some that pack high water percentages:
    • Watermelon (92%
    • Strawberries (92%)
    • Cantaloupe (90%)
    • Peaches (88%)
    • Oranges, Pineapples, and Raspberries (87%)
      • Pro tip: Build excitement by recruiting students to create fruit marketing signs for race day. Use bright colors, school logos, and encourage students to use descriptive adjectives on the signs (e.g. mouthwatering watermelon, refreshing cantaloupe, super strawberries, etc.)

Victory Lane Smoothie Stand

  • Recruit a handful of volunteers to run a smoothie station at the finish line. Bonus: The stand can serve as an additional fundraising option!
  • Gold Medal Berry Smoothie Recipe (makes twelve 8 oz. servings)
    • 3 cups frozen strawberries
    • 3 cups frozen blueberries
    • 2 bananas
    • 2 cups of milk or unsweetened plant based milk
    • 4 cups of plain Greek yogurt

5K Trail Mix

  • Mix pre-popped popcorn, almonds and raisins in small bags for a crunchy trail mix snack
  • Nutrition tip: Check the ingredient list on pre-popped popcorn for partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid these oils to keep hearts healthy and strong.

(Not So) Plain Yogurt

  • Purchase plain, unsweetened yogurt and add your own fruit. This will help reduce intake of added sugars.

String Cheese

  • Always a crowdpleaser, string cheese is a quick and easy protein-packed snack for race day.

Granola Bars

  • Nutrition tip: Aim for bars with less than 6 grams of sugar and at least 4 grams of fiber for the most nutritious choice.

Happy Racing!

Daniel J. Schultz, MS, RD

High Quality H20: What Your Racers Need To Stay Hydrated

JANUARY 26, 2016 - If students are walking or running at your school, I'm sure you've had questions about what beverages you should be providing them to stay hydrated. It can be confusing, especially with many beverages being marketed by professional athletes stating that they're the best option. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, good, old-fashioned water should be the go-to drink for kids participating in normal physical activity during normal weather conditions. Sports drinks are only recommended to athletes that are participating in prolonged vigorous physical activity (think long distance cycling or football training camp) in hot, humid conditions.

In fact consuming sports drinks on a regular basis may do more hard than good for your students. These beverages are a source of added sugars and may contribute to excess calorie intake. An average 20 ounce bottle of full-calorie sports drink contains a whopping 35 grams of sugar. That's almost 9 teaspoons and 125 calories. This could exceed the number of calories burned during the activity itself!

For most situations rest assured that water is the best choice for your athletes' performance and health. To help make H20 the default beverage during walking and running activities at your school, follow these recommendations on making it convenient and fun:

Create Easy Access

  • Locate the water cooler, or water bottles near the location where kids are walking and running
  • If you don't have a water cooler or resources to purchase water bottles, make sure you have access to water fountains inside the school or building nearby

Incentivize Water

  • Create personalized, reusable water bottles with your run club's name or school logo on it
  • Pro tip: If you're looking for grant funding to purchase water bottles, don't forget to apply for one of our Billion Mile Race grants

Make H20 Fun

  • If you use a water cooler for your club, mix it up by offering a tasty fruit-infused water recipe like a Strawberry Lemon Thirst Quencher (2-3 gallon container):
    • Ingredients
      • 1 container of strawberries, hulled and halved
      • 2 lemons, sliced and squeezed into the cooler (don't forget to remove seeds)
      • 1 bottle of seltzer water
    • Instructions
      • Fill cooler with water, place cut fruit inside and cover
      • Let the fruit steep for a least 3-4 hours in the refrigerator for best flavor
      • When ready to serve, strain and discard fruit
      • Before serving, add one large bottle of seltzer water for a bubbly flavor

Send The Message Home

Happy Racing!

Daniel J. Schultz, MS, RD