My kid's elementary school started a program called the running coyotes. The kids meet once a week after school and run with the principal and parents. They do two road races a year, one in spring and one in fall. Last year I had the opportunity to run a 5K with my 9 year old. She finished the race without stopping and I could just feel her sense of pride from that accomplishment.
I know what you are thinking, pain in the knees, out of breath, a side ache, but let's put a kid twist on running today. Get them started early with fun backyard games. Here are a couple of ideas........
Backyard Obstacle Course
Have the kid's create an obstacle course out of things in the backyard. Crawl through the swimming pool, use the swing set monkey bars, swing and slide, use soccer cones or baseball bases, jump rope, etc. If the kids are old enough, have them create them with their friends. If they are little, you can create it for them.
Dizzy Bat Race
Create several relay lines depending on the amount of kids. Each team has a bat. When "go" is shouted, the first person in each line places the end of the bat on the ground and the other end on their forehead. They run around in a circle 3 times and run to a cone and back. Then the next person in line goes until everyone is through the line.
Red Light, Green Light
In this game, one person plays the "stop light" and the rest try to touch him/her.
At the start, all the children form a line about 15 feet away from the stop light.
The stop light faces away from the line of kids and says "green light". At this point the kids are allowed to move towards the stoplight.
At any point, the stop light may say "red light!" and turn around. If any of the kids are caught moving after this has occurred, they are out.
Play resumes when the stop light turns back around and says "green light".
The stop light wins if all the kids are out before anyone is able to touch him/her.
Otherwise, the first player to touch the stop light wins the game and earns the right to be "stop light" for the next game
Old Fashioned Sack Races
If you can find old potato sacks that is perfect. But if not, you can always use trash bags or pillowcases. This can be done as a relay, or just place all the kids on a line and have a finish line.
Kids are too young to run 26.2 miles in one workout. But a fun way to challenge your kids and improve their endurance is to have a marathon challenge. The object of this running game is for the kids to run a full marathon over a period of time. Don't give each kid a specific number of miles they need to run on a daily basis. Let the child determine their own progress. Keep a mileage log for each kid. When they reach their 26.2 mile challenge the kid gets a reward such as a marathon challenge t-shirt. Use your imagination on the rewards and always keep it fun and rewarding. One good way to keep your marathon challengers motivated is to have levels similar to martial arts. For example they may get a white belt at the 6 mile level, a yellow belt at the 13 mile level, a red belt at the 20 mile level and a black belt when they complete their challenge.
Bean Bag Relay
Here is a fun kids running workout that will also teach them to run efficiently. Divide your kids into relay teams of 4 each. Place one kid from each team at the relay transition points on the track, around your cul de sac, or backyard. The first kid to start places a bean bag on their head and runs to the first relay transition zone. If the bag falls off their head they must stop where it falls off and replace it on their head before continuing. At the transition zone each runner places the bag on their team mates head and that running continues on. The first team to complete the relay wins.