Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tips for Running With Your Kids (and Avoiding Meltdowns)

You love running. You love your kids. The idea of running a race with your kids combines two of your passions and can only amount to an all-around wonderful experience.  You will spend the time together bonding while you run. You will take in the scenery, get some good exercise and cross the finish line holding hands and smiling. You will exchange high fives as your children look at you glowingly and with a sense of accomplishment.

Yeah, right.

I have now run at least seven BolderBOULDER 10Ks with my kids. Some have gone smoothly and some have involved excessive whining and tears. This has taught me a lot about how to approach doing races with kids. While running with your family can be amazing, it is important to go into it eyes wide open and to keep your expectations relatively low. This is not to say you approach it as a Debbie Downer, but more that you have a healthy dose of realism as it pertains to how the miles might shake out.

Here are some things to consider:

      Does your child even want to do the race? Although I am a runner and think that running races is equivalent to the heavens opening up and the angels singing just for me – not everyone looks at it this way. If your child is going to make it through the 10K run, then it’s essential that they actually want to cross both the start and finish lines. Sure, you can nudge them in the right direction and tell them about all the perks, but ultimately, let it be their idea and their decision.

·        Is your child in shape to go the distance? Start discussing the possibility of doing the race months ahead. If they are on board, then make sure they do some training. Build up to the race distance slowly but surely. A good idea is to start with a run/walk program and gradually increase your run time and decrease your walk time.  Make a plan for race day – for example, that you will walk through all aid stations or that you will run five minutes, walk one. Whatever works for you and your kid(s). If your child is properly trained and knows what to expect, your day will go a lot smoother.

·       Make sure your goals don’t get in the way. This race should be about your child and not you. Maybe you can run a 10K in under an hour and you think your child can/should do that too. My best advice is to not set a time goal, especially if this is your first time running with your child. That just sets everyone up to fail. Instead, make the goal to finish strong, whatever that looks like.

·         Hold back at the start. With so many people doing this race, you will be waiting for your wave start for a while. You will be listening to the waves in front of you as they count down and begin running. The excitement and adrenaline builds and everyone is ready to go and to go fast when that gun goes off. Kids, in particular, do not usually do well at pacing themselves when the race starts. Make a plan ahead of time that you are going to start out casually and relatively slowly so that no one burns out too early. Most importantly, explain this concept to them!

·         Keep safety in mind.  Dress appropriately. Take in fluids along the way. Take your time. Some runs may be very crowded and busy. Make sure you set up a meeting place at the finish in case you get separated.

·         Have fun! Don’t take it all too seriously. Races can be a blast. The runners and spectators combine forces and the result is a sort of magical and infectious energy. Your kids will remember the race for a long time, I promise.

      Do you Run races with your kids? Why or why not?

     How much do you think we should push kids to run? My opinion that is that pushing kids to do things because you want them to do them is a recipe for disaster and will come back to bite you.



  1. My sons won't run with me. My oldest ran a few races with me when he was younger but he's since become too cool for that. My youngest says I run too slow. Of course, he doesn't run farther than the length of the rugby field.

  2. My kids wanted to run a brutal half marathon up and down a mountain with us a couple of years ago. We did a bunch of hiking and running to prepare them and ran/hiked the course once ahead of time. I thought my youngest would bow out after seeing the course but he didn't. He ran it at 7 yrs. old, 8 yrs. and will do it again at 9 yrs. this summer. I am amazed that they all keep wanting to run it. We try not to pressure them or push them too hard.

  3. I would be happy to get my 10 yr. old daughter to even *walk* with me, let alone run! At least she enjoys biking.

    My 13 yr. old son could be a very good distance runner, but somehow he has it in his head that we was built for sprinting (he's not). In the past when we've done fun runs (not races at all) he has pretty much sprinted, then stopped and walk, and sprinted some more. They just started doing "track club" at school, and he got in 2.25 miles in the allotted 20 minute time-frame. I had previously asked if he wanted to join me in running a 5K on the 4th of July, but he had never really liked the idea until today -- maybe he will want to join me after all. If he does decided to do it, hopefully he will let me know in enough time that I can actually do some training runs with him.

    I agree with you about pushing kids to do things not being a good idea, and we generally try to apply that to all of their activities. This is why one does karate for their main activity, and the other takes riding lessons (and this year she decided to play softball). If they don't want to do something, then there's no point in us pushing them into it -- which is why I will let my son decide if he wants to run the 5K or not.

  4. My kids won't run with me but that's ok. I kind of like the way they say, "It's yours and Dad's thing." But I am enjoying taking my grandson out for runs. The running stroller is a whole new kind of workout! He loves the stroller and we use terms like keeping hydrated and grab your running fuel (fishy crackers) and let's go for a run! Ha!

  5. One thing I've learned with my 9 year old is that he actually does better if I'm not running next to him. If I run next to him, he complains and whines. If I run ahead or if I fall behind, he focuses in on his run and powers through.

    1. I've found the same thing! My 12 year old has several 5k and 10k races under his belt, and has done great in them. As long as he isn't running with me! If we try to run together then he keeps up a monologue of how bad it sucks and how everything hurts and how hot/cold/tired/hungry/thirsty he is. Maddening. But put him in a race by himself and he runs his little heart out and brags about his PR for days!

    2. Now that is the truth. Last year my daughter was so unbearable (mile one of a 10K that she insisted on doing) that I left her. She finished all smiles.

  6. I ran a turkey trot with 2 of my nieces (ages 10 and 11) They hadn't trained and took off sprinting. I figured I would eventually catch them and did. I spent about 2 miles doing math with the youngest (how much of 3 miles is 2 miles?) I tried running by time (run 3 minutes, walk 1) and she couldn't stay focused since she wasn't wearing a watch. I then found landmarks to run to before our next walk break. She was a trooper though and we had fun making memories.

  7. As always, I love reading you Beth. I agree with all of this! I don't think we should push kids to run but once we've invited them to run and they like it and really want to run a race, I think we can help them find success in their goals (whatever it is they want from the race or track club or fun run) by encouraging them and teaching them strategies for sticking with something even when it feels hard... because running does get hard at some point. I think it depends on age for sure! My middle daughter loves to run and I want to keep it that way so I invite her lots and when she says yes, we enjoy our runs! And when she asks to run a 5k together and tells me she wants to run a certain time or place compared to last year? I say yes! And when the race gets hard and she gets tired? I talk her through it. I don't necessarily "push" her but I do help her push herself. Because I know, in the end, that this is a treasure of a lesson and the feeling of pride and accomplishment she will feel at the end in knowing she pushed herself and had a mix of fun and hard work to meet her goal ....this is priceless. It will go a long long way with her through life! Ah, you just got me remembering about all Tia and I wrote on this topic when we were working on our book and website.... oh, and then life happened....

  8. First race with my daughter (youngest kid) was in my first year of running and she was in HS XC. We got the the start line, the gun went off, and that was the last I saw of her until I finished (she WAS at least cheering for me afterward, she'd had 10-12 mins to cool down). She placed 3rd in her AG! When we race anything longer than a 5k, we start together and she stays with me for the first mile or so, then she's off. Helps her not go out too fast - but I've now run 2 marathons and she hasn't. Yet. One of these days, I want her to pace me!

    Ran one race with my son (he was 22? at the time), and he said how he'd run the whole thing with me because he had a cold anyway. Nope, not only was our 8" height difference in his favor, but his former soccer legs kicked in and he smoked me. Luckily, running IS for me, and I run MY pace unless there's a specific reason I'm running someone else's (I helped pace a friend to her first half, which was amazing).

  9. One thing that really worked well with my son was setting visual goals. If he wanted to walk, we picked something to run to (like a stop sign, a light pole, whatever) and then picked another landmark where we would start running again. The last 5k we did he beat me by 2 minutes, so I think those days are in the past!

  10. I don't have kids but my niece does some runs with me. She loves to go, so for the past couple years, I have entered us into races for her birthday. Last year she wanted to do a mud run. I found one that a 13 year old could do, we had a blast.

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