Top 8 Great Running Programs And Essential Tips For Kids

In recent years, online games and apps have become quite popular among various age groups. As a result, most kids rarely engage in real-life physical activities like jogging or running, walking & bike riding anymore. This is considered one of the major causes of the increase in obesity in children. At the same time, this raises more concerns about the kids' activity and fitness levels.

As a parent, you should encourage your younger kids to be more active to overcome these problems. For example, running is a great way to meet the 1 hour of daily activity for kids proposed by the US Department of Health & Human Services.

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You need to note that running programs for kids and adults are 2 different things. So, despite how much you want your kids to embrace life outside their screens, you cannot simply add them to your training routine. Instead, you need to find a running program for kids to encourage them to train regularly and safely.

On the bright side, there are many good running programs for kids out there! The best part? I've listed some of the most inspiring, motivating, and fun programs in this guide.

So, check them out to determine the best option for your kids!

Best 8 Running Programs for Young Children

Kids Run The Nation 

Most running programs for children are planned at the school level to be easily accessible. Well, the Kids Run the Nation program by RRCA is no exception. The objective of this program is to support and help establish locally managed running programs for youth in the communities and schools across the country.

Interestingly, this program has granted over $300k to different-sized programs since 1986. Also, it has helped to circulate a thousand copies of RRCA printed curricular materials within the same period. In essence, Kids Run the Nation is a youth version of the renowned Road Runners Club of America, an adult running club.

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RRCA gives this program to schools (after/ before school), non-profits, homeless shelters, and community centers. Specifically, this program is designed to help kids in kindergarten through 6th grade meet the USDA's physical exercise goals (United States Department of Agriculture). However, it can be modified to serve an institution for youth or experienced runners. Besides, there are no royalty fees for adopting this program's curriculum.

Bottom line, if you want your young children to get interested in running, the Kids Run The Nation program is a great place to start!

Build Our Kids' Success (BOKS) 

BOKS is a free school-based physical activity/ training program for middle school and elementary school kids. It includes a training session, lesson plans & support required to get children running for about 45 minutes a day. In addition, it consists of a running game, shorter movement breaks, and activities intended to meet your needs, either as a parent or an educator.

With its after- and before-school programming, this fitness program teaches children fitness skills and fundamentals of running. Even better, each BOKS running program class includes a game, weekly fitness skill, and a running-specific activity. Best of all, if your child's school doesn't have this program, you can get free training on how to start.

USATF Youth/ Grass Roots Program

The USARF training program promotes popular engagement and competitive excellence in the track and field sport. This program helps the next generation of athletes in the track & field sport become champions. For that reason, it's a great running program for serious mini-athletes. Specifically, it's suitable for older children who have already proclaimed their talent or interest in track & field.

Interestingly, this program attracts over 70 thousand young participants every year. This makes it one of the most popular youth programs out there.

Another thing worth mentioning about this program is that it uses grant money to expand the existing youth clubs/ programs. This improves the experience for the participants while giving additional competitive chances for younger kids. Besides, it prefers clubs based in low-income neighborhoods and programs with a history of community support and reliable financial management.

Nittany Running Club

Nittany Track and Field is a not-for-profit club designed explicitly for young athletes aged 8 to 18 years. The club's objective is to create a positive, fun & supportive environment for athletic growth and training. Besides, the club coaches inspire children to develop techniques, discipline and set personal goals to help them meet those goals. More importantly, this training program is ideal for kids of all levels of experience and ability.

This program was started in Fall 1999. Since then, the club has had over 100 children taking part in the program every year.

If your kids aged between 8 and 18 years are interested in long-distance running, the club also supports the NTF Youth Cross country. This will be a great way to stay fit and active over the fall season, regardless of their athletic specialization. Besides, this program welcomes both experienced athletes and beginners.

ASICS Grasshoppers Running Club

The Columbus Running Company hosts the ASICS Grasshoppers club, another excellent running program for youth. Since 2012, the club has been helping kids fall in love with running as a sport. 

With this program, kids can participate in running workouts in 3 distinct seasons. That's fall, summer, and spring. The summer season, suitable for grade 3 to 6 kids, is the club's intro-level program. On the contrary, fall and spring programs are ideal for an experienced young athlete. These seasons are designed to help the youth prepare for the high school & middle school cross country.

Kilometer Kids 

Popularly known as K-Kids, Kilometer Kids is an incentive-based youth running program by Atlanta Track Club. This program is designed to help children in the community get active. Besides, it's suitable for kids aged 7 to 14 years. Best of all, it's a free youth running program, meaning there are no participation fees, both for middle and elementary school students, regardless of their running experience/ ability.

Every year, the program influences over 8,000 kids in Atlanta and beyond. In addition, this free, game-based curriculum teaches kids about healthy habits, community building, and goal setting. Talking of goals, this program aims to help kids run at least 26.3 miles throughout the season. This is accomplished by kids attending 2 practices every week for about 10 weeks.

That said, if you're a parent looking to run with your little one in the neighborhood, Kilometer kids is a great way to keep your children active. Also, it is an excellent option for teachers who want to start an after-school running program for kids.

Girls on the Run (GOTR)

As the name implies, Girls on the Run is a running program that's dedicated to young girls between 3rd grade and 8th grade. More notably, this program emphasizes 3 values; teamwork, understanding ourselves, and valuing relationships. Also, this running program aims to turn the next generation of young girls into runners while making them healthy and confident through physical fitness.

Interestingly, this program is available in all 50 states and involves 24 lessons over 3 months. During the period, girls meet in teams of 8 - 20 people and learn many life skills through engaging lessons. Moreover, each time creates and implements a local community service project. Finally, the program ends with a 5k running program for kids, giving the participants a sense of accomplishment.

Create Your Own Running Club

If none of these youth running programs feels suitable for your kids, you can choose to create your running club. Besides, this may be the only way to ensure that everything is done right.

Setting up a running club for kids does not have to cost anything since it requires little equipment. Moreover, the initial set-up only requires a few hours. Afterward, you can spend a few hours every week walking or running with the children that join. Best of all, you can share this duty with other parents or teachers.

Essential Tips for Young Runners

Running is an excellent way to keep your kids active at an early age. Thanks to all the benefits it comes with, including mental, physical & personal development for kids. As an example, running fasters better concentration for learning, time management skills, and builds confidence.

However, running can be hard sometimes, especially for reluctant runners kids. As a result, such kids are less likely to stick to running if it's not fun or seems like hard work. So, how do you keep your children motivated to keep them running through the hard times?

Well, here are a few essential tips that will help your kids love running without pushing too much!

⦿ Start small & slow with age-appropriate running drills for kids

Start with low speed, frequency & effort, and short distances. Then increase things slowly, depending on what works and what is suitable for your kids. As an example, if your 6-year-old kid hasn't shown interest in running, don't start them off with a fast 1-mile run. Instead, you should start with the training with short distances and allow the kid to develop their endurance.

It would help if you also remembered that kids' bodies don't adapt or work the same way as adult bodies. Most kids see running and other physical activities to play games or have fun. However, some kids, especially those who have shown interest in running, train to engage in kids' road races. 

⦿ Make running fun

As mentioned earlier, running or jogging for kids is mainly about having fun outdoors. So, don't make running seem like a punishment to your kids. Instead, it should be an exhilarating experience that allows kids to run on fun and freedom. This will help them develop a lifelong interest and passion for running.

So, while encouraging your kids to participate in running, ensure they're having fun while at it. This will enable them to continue running while helping you share great moments with your kids.

⦿ Establish a goal

Another thing that will keep your kids interested in running is setting appropriate and achievable goals. For example, if the final goal is to run a local 5k race, work slowly to accomplish it. This will help kids learn about long-term planning and time management.

However, since such big goals are far in the future, it's hard for kids to visualize. Besides, they may make kids feel like they need to meet lofty expectations. To avoid that, look for kid-friendly races with fun themes. More importantly, when kids achieve a specific goal, remember to congratulate them.

⦿ Mix things up

Kids get bored over time if they repeatedly keep doing the same workout or running program. To avoid that, explore different places while training to keep them interested and make the runs unique. For example, you can run on a dirty trail one day, track on the other day, and grass on the next. Also, you can alternate your runs between morning and evening.

Better still, you can try something unique like a pajama run, flashlight run, or even a scavenger hunt run. In short, get creative and mix things up!

⦿ Don't emphasize on distance/ speed

Running programs for kids shouldn't be about who runs the longest distance or who's the fastest. Instead, the program is intended to keep them active, support healthy living and help them participate in the sport, not for competition!

⦿ Incorporate running games into your program

Running classes for kids shouldn't necessarily involve training on the pavement for 30-60 minutes straight. Sometimes you can try out games that include running instead. This will be a great way to hold their attention for a short span while still keeping them active.

Obstacle racecourse and musical hoops are good examples of kid-friendly games that incorporate running. 

⦿ Get the appropriate running gear for kids 

Although you don't need a lot of gear for your young runner to wear when running, certain things will be beneficial to have.

To start, you'll need a few athletic shorts and shirts that are comfortable for your kid. In this regard, avoid cotton clothing since they tend to hold chafe and dirt. Instead, look for shirts and shorts made up of synthetic tech gear.

Our pick

COOLOMG Boys Thermal Shirt Long Sleeve Compression Tops

  • Very well made base layer
  • Fits well under the jersey
  • Last several seasons
  • Perfect for cold soccer weather

Runner up

LANBAOSI Boys & Girls Long Sleeve Compression Shirts and Pants

  • Good quality materials
  • Reasonable price
  • Make more comfortable when exercising
  • Greater mobility in any direction

Also great

Tesuwel Boys Girls Base Layer Athletic Compression Leggings and Shirts

  • 88% Polyester 12% Spandex construction
  • Reduces friction build-up to avoid irritation
  • Four-Way Stretch fabric wicks
  • Durable and comfortable

Secondly, you'll need a water bottle. This will ensure that your kids stay hydrated by quenching their thirst while running.

Our pick

Simple Modern Kids Water Bottle with Straw Lid Vacuum Insulated

  • BPA free Summit Straw leak-proof Lid
  • Double-walled and vacuum insulated
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • 100% Stainless Steel

Runner up

Involve & Evolve Insulated Water Bottle with 3 Lids (Straw Lid) for Kids

  • Vacuum insulated, work great as a thermos
  • 100% leakproof
  •  High-quality food-grade material
  • Stylish and durable powder coating

Also great

UZSPACE Water Bottles with Fruit Infuser Strainer for Kids

  • Food grade  and eco-friendly material
  • BPA free and non-toxic
  • Double-locking leak-proof lid
  • Convenient for kids

Lastly, you’ll need a pair of running shoes for kids to help them move efficiently. Moreover, new running shoes support the high impact on the body caused by this activity.

Note the best running shoes for kids should be flexible to allow their feet to move naturally. Besides, kids' foot structure and bones are still developing and adapting. Therefore, sneakers are considered the best-running footwear for kids since they come in different types and qualities. For that, you can easily find the perfect option based on your kid's running habits and age.

Our pick

MURDESOT Athletic Running Sports Strap Sneakers for Kids

  • Effectively prevent slipping
  • Lightweight and stylish
  • Comfortable
  • Shock absorbing design

Runner up

DREAM PAIRS Athletic Sports Sneakers Tennis Running Shoes forBoys Girls

  • Perfect fit
  • Reasonable price
  • Good for rough use
  • Comfortable

Also great

NYZNIA Running Lightweight Breathable Sneakers for Kids

  • Very comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • Anti-slip performance

⦿ Make it social 

Running events and clubs are a great way to meet and interact with other young runners. For that reason, it's good to expose kids to other runners. That way, a bit older kids can motivate the younger ones. Moreover, this will allow them to see what they can do in the few years to come.

So, if you're planning a kids marathon, check out if the local track club has a kid's group. This will help your kids make friends through running and stay motivated during the race day. 


Running for kids is an excellent physical activity since it helps them develop proper levels of self-efficacy and fitness. And your role, as a parent, is to guide them towards different movement methods. Thankfully, with so many great running programs for kids out there, that task is now easier than ever.

Check our list above to find the ideal program and race for your little one. Alternatively, you can check with your local area's recreation program or child's school. Also, some churches provide running clubs and teams that are open for children outside of the congregation. Whichever the case, encouraging your younger kids to participate in running programs may get them more excited and interested in running.


① How fast can a child run?

A 16-year old can reach a max running speed of around 26 km/h, while 10-year-olds can get a 20km/h. 

② What is the ideal 5k time for kids?

At a national level, 17 to 18 minutes is a good time for kids to run a 5k race. But for a fun run in middle school, 22 - 24 minutes is a reasonable time. 

③ How far can 4-year-old kids run?

Kids of different ages can run at different distances. For example, children under 4 years can run a maximum of 50 m. while kids aged 5 - 6 years can run up to 100m. On the contrary, 7 to 8-year-olds can run up to 200m. 

④ At what age can a child start running? 

In most cases, children start running when they are about 18 - 24 months old. However, the kid should not get into a formal running program until at least 3 years old.

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