Manhattan Cross Country Club

About Us

The Manhattan Cross Country Club was formed in Fall, 2004 to encourage age-appropriate distance running for youth as a means to lifetime fitness and health. The Club’s guiding philosophy is to promote good sportsmanship, respect for teammates and self, and a positive attitude toward self-improvement, confidence-building and goal-setting. All we care about is that kids give their best effort at whatever they do!

Our six week program runs from the last week of August through September. The athlete-to-coach ratio is typically 7:1. We teach a curriculum that is primarily geared to non-competitive running, though we do offer a more competitive program for those youth who are physically and mentally ready to run a little more. Our guidelines are based on recommendations from the Road Runners Club of America, and USA Track and Field.  HyVee has been providing healthy snacks for EVERY PRACTICE for the last 3 years!  We appreciate their support!


The Club is non-profit. Youth pay a $10 ($12 if registering online) membership fee, which includes a six-week competitive or non-competitive running experience, and entry into the School Fitness Challenge. Each membership is valid for a year (usually beginning each August), including the opportunity to participate in such non-season events as weekly Group Runs, a New Years Day Fun Run and other fitness activities. Area road races often offer discounts for Club members.

Fifteen youth in grades 6-8 participated the first season, and the numbers grew to 36 youth in grades 3-8 in the second year. A new record was set in 2011, with 71 youth members, and 13 volunteer coaches, but just one day into the 2012 season, the record was again broken — 79 youth members and 15 volunteer coaches! By the time we finished the 2012 season, 107 kids had signed up.

Those numbers ballooned to 127 in 2013 and 132 in 2014!

In 2005, the Club initiated the Manhattan Youth Cross Country Festival. Co-sponsored by Youth as Resources, the Manhattan Optimists Club, and USA Track and Field, this event attracted 129 youth (ages 4-14) to Manhattan’s Northeast Community Park. In 2007, we moved the event to beautiful Warner Park in west Manhattan, and in 2008, changed the name to the Body First School Fitness Challenge, which in 2015, had 1,052 youth participating and awarded $12,000 to the physical education programs of local schools. Since 2008, the Body First School Fitness Challenge has provided $58,500 to area schools to support fitness and exercise through their physical education programs.  The next Body First School Fitness Challenge will be held in fall 2019.

What is 'Age-Appropriate' Distance Running?

As a member of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), the Manhattan Cross Country Club has adopted the standards for the Kids Run the Nation program.

Ages 3-9
Encourage regular exercise, which might include organized running for fun.

Ages 8-12
Children may enjoy participation in a more organized running program with more systematic training that lasts 2-3 months.

Ages 12 (girls) and 14 (boys)
Youth at this age are undergoing key developmental changes. They can slowly increase training distance and duration, leading to higher levels of participation in a systematic and competitive training environment.

Additional guidelines for the Manhattan Cross Country Club
Make running fun
Focus on participation and self-improvement
Increase running workload gradually — consider such training factors as volume, intensity and frequency. Children should start a running program with low volume and intensity, and run just a couple days a week to begin.

When entering youth in races, consider distances that are appropriate:
— For children 5-under, focus on “dash” events that range from a few yards to 400 meters
— For children ages 5-11, Fun Runs of one-half to 1 mile are appropriate
— For children ages 12-over, a 5K run is appropriate, given that they have received the necessary training for this distance
— For children ages 15-18, a 10K or half-marathon event might be appropriate, with the appropriate training
— The marathon distance (or farther) should not be attempted until at least age 18