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3. Running Sessions

Now that you’ve set up your running space, developed a schedule, recruited colleagues and students, and organized your groups in STRIDES, you’re ready to run and have some fun! This section focuses on creating successful activity sessions, including stretching, session structure, counting laps, inspiring kids, and general safety.


A few minutes of stretching helps students transition from their previous activity and prepares them for running or walking sessions. Alternatively, they can stretch as a cool-down following a Mighty Milers session.

Use these suggested stretches, or view the following stretch segments from the Running Start videos:

Session Structure

With experience, you’ll figure out the best format for your Mighty Milers sessions, but most programs structure them in one of these two ways:

  • All students in a group run the same number of laps
  • Each student runs as many laps as possible within a set amount of time

If a large group is running the same number of laps, we suggest starting them in loosely organized lines. If your students are old enough, you can select one of the kids to lead the pack and set the pace. Another method is for the Program Assistant to run in front and set the pace. You can have a second Program Assistant run in the back to keep the kids in the back from falling behind. This method helps you maintain order and build team spirit. It works especially well with the following types of sessions:

  • Teacher-led classroom breaks
  • Fitness Days and Fitness Hours
  • Student-led warm-ups

If students run at their own pace (i.e. as many laps as they can in a set time period), you can either start them together or stagger their start. Encourage students to run or walk at a comfortable, brisk speed that they can maintain for the session, but not to race one another. This method requires minimal staff support and works especially well for the following sessions:

  • Recess running
  • Before- or after-school runs
  • Warm-up or cool-down

Counting Laps

If students run at their own pace, you’ll need to keep track of their laps individually. If it’s a small group, you can count them yourself or have the kids self-report their laps. (For details on printing out class rosters to help record laps, go to Reporting Student Mileage in the Program Maintenance section.  If you have a large group, we recommend one of the methods below:

The Punch-card Method

  • Students run an easily monitored course carrying paper cards
  • A staff member marks or punches cards at the completion of each lap
  • Laps are tallied by staff during the data-entry process
  • Cards can be used for many sessions on the same course

The Popsicle Stick Method

  • Students receive a popsicle stick (or index card, penny, etc.) for each lap they complete
  • Students return items at the end of each session
  • Staff tally items and record laps for data entry

The Reverse Popsicle Stick Method

  • Students receive several popsicle sticks before they start running
  • Students drop a popsicle stick in a receptacle every time they complete a lap
  • When the session is over, the teacher or student counts the number of sticks left
  • The student or teacher then subtracts the number of sticks remaining from the original number of sticks to determine the total number of laps completed
  • The teacher or Program Assistant records this number for entry into STRIDES later


For many students, the running session itself—movement, releasing energy, spending time with friends—is all the motivation they need. These are some ideas to make Mighty Milers even more fun for students and staff alike:

  • Music: Play songs that inspire kids to move. Have students suggest music for future practice sessions.
  • Adult participation: Students enjoy it when teachers and other adults like principals and parents run with them—and adults get to exercise, too by joining Teacher Tracking!
  • Games: Check out fun games at A Running Start to make counting laps enjoyable and encourage teamwork and friendly competition

General Safety

At all times, take care and remember to follow these Mighty Milers safety tips:

  • Keep the running area clean and survey the area before allowing the kids to run
  • Supervise the kids at all times
  • Set up a passing or walking/resting area
  • Make turns wide curves
  • Limit number of kids running at the same time  if you’re in a small space
  • Follow the safety guidelines of your school/organization

And make sure that the kids:

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear proper shoes and keep laces tied (avoid sandals, heels, and hard soles)
  • Drink enough liquids
  • Don’t overdo it on hot, humid days
  • Start slow and build up speed

Severe Weather Conditions

You may have to contend with extreme temperatures at some point, so be prepared to run in cold or hot temperatures. Follow these guidelines to avoid problems and to treat them when they arise.

Hot Weather Running Tips:

  • Make sure students stay properly hydrated; in warm weather, they should drink eight ounces of water at least every 35–40 minutes.
  • Suggest that students eat more fruits and vegetables because of their high water content.
  • Limit sun exposure, and have students apply sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) 15 minutes prior to going outside. Students should reapply every 2 or 3 hours while outdoors or after drying off.
  • Use wet towels to help children cool off.
  • Be aware of the danger signs and know how to treat the following:
    • Heat cramps:  Symptoms are muscle cramps caused by the loss of minerals through sweating and dehydration. Athletes should stop running, drink water or sports drinks, massage muscles when pain subsides, cool off with wet towels, and get out of the sun.
    • Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid pulse, heavy sweating accompanied by moist and cold skin, muscle cramping and “goose bumps” on the torso and arms. Athletes should stop running immediately, drink water and sports drinks, get out of the sun and into an air-conditioned space if possible, lie down and elevate feet above the heart, loosen clothing, and seek medical attention. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
    • Heat stroke: Symptoms include disorientation and fuzzy thinking, weakness in legs, strange behavior including flailing arms and shoving, rapid pulse, cessation of sweating and hot/dry skin, body temperature reaching 104 degrees or higher, convulsions and loss of consciousness. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate emergency medical attention, including being moved out of the sun, application of ice packs to groin, armpits, neck, being immersed in cold water, and receiving fluids intravenously.

Cold Weather Running Tips:

  • Be sure kids warm up sufficiently, since cold muscles are more prone to injury. They should not stretch until they have jogged or walked briskly for a few minutes.
  • Students should wear gloves or mittens and ski hats or balaclavas and/or face protection like a ski mask.
  • The upper body should have two to four layers while the legs need only one to two.
  • If clothing gets wet, runners/walkers should change into dry clothing immediately. When possible, kids should wear a base layer that insulates, wicks moisture away from the skin, and protects from cold winds.
  • Even in cold weather, children must stay properly hydrated by drinking fluids.
  • Warn students about frostbite, which usually occurs on the ears, face, fingers, and toes.  If frostbite occurs, the area of skin will be cold, pale or ashen, and firm to the touch.  Warm the frostbitten area gradually without excessive heat and seek medical attention.


  • 2. Set Up

    The key to success is proper setup. Learn how to pick running courses, get staff support, recruit students, and more.

  • 4. Program Maintenance

    In this section you learn the basics of managing your program—from recording laps and giving out awards to reaching us.