P3R (Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc.) has partnered with more than 140 schools and organizations in 12 counties to inspire lifelong, healthy habits in children through its award-winning Kids of STEEL program.

Launched in 2011, the free Kids of STEEL training program encourages children to get moving and make healthier food choices while establishing a level of physical literacy, athletic development, and engagement for families and communities.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 5: The 2018 P3R Pittsburgh Marathon hosts the Toyota Kids Marathon on May 5, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (www.pghmarathon.photoshelter.com)

Through a variety of training options, kids complete 25 miles of physical activity during the program and then the 1.2-mile Kids Marathon for a total of 26.2 miles—the length of a full marathon. Thousands of kids and their families then celebrate the completion of the program during the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 5: The 2018 P3R Pittsburgh Marathon hosts the Toyota Kids Marathon on May 5, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (www.pghmarathon.photoshelter.com)

On Saturday, May 4, kids and their families are invited to participate in the Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh Kids Marathon (1.2 miles), but also have the option to complete the Sheetz Toddler Trot (40 meters) or the UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run (3.1 miles) based on their age and ability.

“P3R is dedicated to promoting lifelong, healthy habits for all ages,” said P3R CEO Patrice Matamoros. “Our Kids of Steel program provides training and race events that get the whole family moving and inspired to set healthy goals together.”

The program is making a difference and has resulted in kids who have become more active and make better food choices. According to a recent study of parents, 42% said their kids tried new foods while participating in the Kids of STEEL program, and 61% said their kid’s physical activity increased while being part of the program.

“It’s gratifying for us to hear many stories of Kids of STEEL children who were once averse to exercise—and more prone to watch TV or play video games—but have been transformed into running enthusiasts who have gone on to run our half or full marathon,” Matamoros said. “It’s a great feeling to know we’ve made a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

The Kids of STEEL program was named 2015 Youth Program of the Year by Running USA and has grown impressively each year. More than 145 sites and 6,500 children are expected to participate in 2019!

Rebecca Colangelo, a second-grade teacher, is the Kids of STEEL coach at South Fayette Elementary School. The school had 360 kids participate in 2018. For the 2019 program, there are already 170 kids registered from grades K-2 and another 192 registered in grades 3-5.

Colangelo said she knows of many kids who started with the Kids of STEEL program in elementary school and then made running a regular part of their lives. She shared, “This program is great because it instills in them at a young age that running can be a lifelong activity or sport. Kids have moved onto the high school track and cross country teams; others use running to cross train for hockey, soccer and other sports; and some just enjoying running for themselves.”

Rebecca Colanagelo

Colangelo added that many parents have told her over the years the Kids of STEEL program has impacted their families by getting their kids and even entire families involved in running and fitness. “We teach the kids and their families how running can help them build and maintain fitness, but we also focus on nutrition and having them taste different, healthy foods.”

Being involved in the program also provides personal satisfaction for Colangelo. “I love seeing the kids at the Pittsburgh Marathon events in May, taking in the excitement of the environment,” she explained. “And, just about every year, I get to cross the finish line holding hands with one of the kids, and I get to see the sense of accomplishment on their faces as they realize they did it. It usually brings me to tears.”

Whether you are a Kids of STEEL participant or not, all kids and their families are invited to be a part of one of the largest kids races in the nation on Saturday, May 4. To register for the Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh Kids Marathon or another DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend event, visit www.ThePittsburghMarathon.com.