I bought the boys some nice new running shoes at The Shoe Company this week. Running shoes, as in the kind they will run in. Sure, they will be for outdoor play too, but these are meant to be used as real running shoes.
You see, I’ve got my 6 yr old and 8 yr old on training plans as they get ready for their first long distance races. Before I made that leap, though, I did some research.
It all started when I emceed a run earlier in the spring where I handed out awards to the top finishers and gave accolades to impressive achievements.
There was the 77 yr old who ran a 10k that got a big round of applause. And then there was the 4 yr old who completed a 5k.
Is it okay for kids to be doing that? I mean GREAT, you got your 4yr old to put down the Minecraft to go outside, but when I was in high school 1500m was considered being on the “long distance” team, and our cross-country races were rarely longer than 3k.
But kids today run. As running has hooked a generation, so we have hooked our kids. More and more children are out pounding the pavement with mom and dad. Some 9 yr olds are even doing 24hour Navy SEAL challenges.
I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to have my kids alongside me as I do my training, but I’m just as happy with them pacing me on a bike. Next month, however, they will compete in their first distance races a 2k and a 4k as part of Team Diabetes at the Gold Coast Marathon.
Is it okay for kids to run long distances?
The science is mixed on this one. While most agree our kids shouldn’t be running long distances, having them run races under 10k until mid-teens doesn’t seem to pose too much of a problem. (The definition of what constitutes “long” has lengthened since I was in high school.)
Jeremy Deere is a father of 2, a race director, and pretty quick age grouper himself. His son started running when he was 8 and did a few 5k races. His daughter isn’t interested at all, more satisfied to be tumbling on a gymnastics mat.
Still, Deere has watched other kids pick up the sport in growing numbers. He advises parents to take it in moderation and follow some common sense recommendations:
1. Get good running shoes
“They don’t necessarily have to be super-supportive or even cushioned,” explains Deere. “But tied up properly and not worn out,” are the key to having a safe running experience.
This is where our shopping trip came in. You know how quickly kids blow through shoes from regular play – not too mention how quickly they grow out of them. 6 weeks out from their races at the Gold Coast Marathon we went to The Shoe Company to get some ‘fast shoes’ for them.
Finding sizes and styles was easy, deciding which colour to get was a little tougher.
In the end, red won out for Charlie and each boy got fresh kicks in bright colours that they will use to run laps around the school track and trails nearby as we train as a family for our races.
2. Run on softer surfaces instead of pavement
“This includes grass, dirt paths and gravel trails. The impact forces of running on hard sidewalks and pavement can cause injuries to a developing body, especially before growth plates close.”
3. Build up to running longer distances
“There’s no need for a 10 year old to run a marathon, but running the odd 5K or even 10K shouldn’t be detrimental to their health… as long as they train up to those distances. Just as we wouldn’t tell an adult it’s ok to go couch to 10K in just a few weeks, kids should take their time getting their muscles and joints used to running.”
We started with laps of the store.
4. The goal of running should be about fun, not time or placing
“Running should be thought of as a lifelong activity – parents should encourage their kids with this in mind. If they choose to be competitive runners at an older age, then that choice should be made by the child, not the parent.”
I’m so excited to watch my kids compete. Last summer Charlie won first place in a dash across some dirt at the Canada Day horse races. He may expect to have similar greatness again, I’m just wanting to show my kids that with commitment comes results. I want them to set a goal, train hard for it, and watch how they improve over time.
Introducing my kids to running isn’t about time, place, or trophies, it’s about getting healthy and active as a family, and being their best.
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