Pittsburgh Area Middle Schoolers Running More than Ever Thanks to Kids of Steel

Written by Kelsey Emch on April 25, 2019

Record number of kids and families participating in this year’s UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run

PITTSBURGH (April 25, 2019) More middle schoolers than ever before are participating in the award-winning Kids of Steel. The free training program from P3R (Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc.) motivates children and their families to get active, and for the past two years, the program has inspired a record number of middle school-aged kids to run their first 5K race during the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events.

Since 2011, more than 40,000 area children have participated in Kids of Steel and learned the benefits of physical activity. Participants have kept moving after race day, and now they challenging themselves to run longer distances. This year, more than 700 kids ages 18 and under are running in the UPMC Health Plan / UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run on May 4. Almost half of those kids previously participated in Kids of Steel and ran in the Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh Kids Marathon.

“As Kids of Steel participants get older, they are embracing the love of running and are looking for the next challenge on their health and fitness journey,” said Leslie Turis, P3R Youth Program Manager. “The UPMC Health Plan / UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run is a perfect next step after kids complete the Kids Marathon, and it’s a wonderful way for older children and their families to move together.”  

When Turis joined P3R last summer, she was dedicated to expanding Kids of Steel to middle schools. Last fall, she launched an enhanced Kids of Steel 5K training plan geared toward kids ages 10 and up and for the first time, offered grants to schools and nonprofit organizations that wanted to start a middle school run club.

“Middle school can be such a vulnerable time for kids,” Turis said. “Our goal is to share all the amazing benefits of being physically active. We hope that, through running, kids can live better, and they can learn better and feel better.”

So far, 10 sites have launched middle school run clubs. Their clubs offer opportunities for kids to train before or after school with volunteer coaches. Through the program, more than 350 kids are expected to complete their first 5K at the UPMC Health Plan / UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K Run on May 4.

“Thanks to P3R’s support, we were able to launch our first-ever run club this year,” said Steph McFerron, a volunteer coach at Chartiers Valley Middle School. “The after-school club has already had such a positive impact. The students are having fun training together, and they can’t wait to see their hard work pay off when they get their finishers’ medal at the Pittsburgh 5K Run.”

Grants are still available for sites interested in launching a middle school run club. If interested, email Leslie Turis, P3R Youth Program Manager, at Lesle.Turis@P3R.org.  

For more information about Kids of Steel, visit: www.kidsofsteel.org

About Kids of Steel

Kids of Steel is a free training program that motivates kids and families at more than 145 sites throughout 12 counties to get moving and make healthier food choices. During training, participants will complete 25 miles of physical activity at school, during a before or after school program or at home with their families. P3R celebrates the achievements of kids, coaches and families by bringing everyone together to finish the last mile at the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon on Saturday, May 4. Since the program’s inception in 2011, more than 35,000 children in the tri-state area have learned what it takes to be a Kid of STEEL. Learn more at www.KidsOfSteel.org.

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About P3R (Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc.)

P3R is a nonprofit organization that is passionate about promoting a love of running and enhancing community access to health & fitness education and activities. Best known for organizing the acclaimed annual DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, we also manage a variety of other high-quality races, events, and health and fitness programs throughout the Pittsburgh region. While many of our races attract some of the nation’s highest-profile professional athletes, we offer activities for all ages and ability levels. The only criterion for participation is a desire to be happy, healthy and active! Read more at: P3R.org

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