Kids of Steel

If you drove by Lincoln Elementary on Friday, you might’ve been surprised to see a giant pierogi, a woman wearing a rainbow tutu and 100 kids running on Beverly Road. It was all part of the final celebration for Kids of STEEL (KOS), a program from P3R and the Pittsburgh Marathon, designed to get kids moving.

Coach Mary Ullman, Potato Pete and Lincoln kids run their last mile before the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Mary Ullman, Parker Drive, coaches the KOS team, who trained three days a week for five weeks in preparation for the one-mile Pittsburgh Kids Marathon, on Saturday, May 4.

Mt. Lebanon is the only school district with a KOS team at each elementary school. Mt. Lebanon schools have participated in the program for more than 10 years, but lapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ullman, a runner herself and parent of two students at Lincoln, restarted the team in 2022 with the help of other volunteers.

As part of Kids of STEEL, runners complete at least 25 training miles before the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon.

“It’s a sport that’s free for kids, which is often hard to find, and something we’re happy to offer,” she said.

Kids of all athletic abilities participate in KOS. “We meet each kid where they’re at in terms of fitness. They set goals tailored to their abilities,” said Ullman. During marathon training, the kids work on strength, stamina and endurance, ending each practice with a fun game.

Will Rosswog, 9, ends his training with a free scoop of ice cream from Aimee Lucot at Millie’s Ice Cream Truck.

“We give them a snack and a sticker before they leave. It helps them forget the pain,” said Ullman with a laugh.

Ullman began Friday’s final practice with a short motivational speech. “I’ve watched you work, sweat and fight, and I’m so impressed with you. Just remember, you can always make progress. You can start over as many times as you need.”

Ullman welcomed runners to their final practice: “Welcome to last day, best day!”

Then the kids were off to run their final lap on the sidewalks surrounding Meadowcroft Park and the school, with the support of Pittsburgh Pirates Pierogi Potato Pete. After completing the mile, they scattered to play dodgeball and kickball, sit for face painting and tattoos, and enjoy Millie’s ice cream and healthy treats. Energetic pop music and bubbles filled the central gathering space. An older kid walked by, saying, “I wish I could be in Kids of Steel. They get to do all the fun stuff.”

During the celebration, Maddie, a fifth grader at Lincoln, said, “I really like running with my friends. This will be my second marathon and I’m only 11.”

Lincoln Elementary fifth grader Jordan Walter (left) tries to make the tag on third grader Caroline Staley during a pickup kickball game.