Most of us agree that children should spend lots of time outdoors running around and playing. But 8 and half hours of straight running? When they ask multiple times to stop? Even the most athletic among us find that excessive, and many experts say it could even be harmful to their health.
Yet that’s what 6-year-old Rainier Crawford accomplished when he ran all 26.2 miles of Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon last weekend. The hale youngster ran alongside his parents and five brothers and sisters, completing the course in 8 hours and 35 minutes.
Most marathon runners train for months, slowly working up longer and longer distances. Little Rainier was no exception.
“Some of the training was hard,” he told a television reporter from Good Morning America. “I falled sometimes.”
For comparison, middle schoolers twice Rainier’s age run cross country events of two miles.
The family immediately faced backlash for their unusual, and perhaps unprecedented, decision.
His father shared disturbing details of what the run was like in a celebratory Instagram post, sharing a picture of a now-smiling child holding a box of potato chips.
“He was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes,” Rainer’s dad wrote, explaining that when an expected handout of Pringles at mile 20 didn’t materialize, Rainer balked. “He was crying and we were moving slow so I told him I’d buy him two sleeves if he kept moving. I had to promise him another sleeve to get him in the family pic at the finish line.”
We can all agree that bribing a kid with chips isn’t a terrible thing, and if you’re trying to get someone into a car — or even a family picture — a tube of processed simple carbohydrates does no harm once in a while. But the rest of what this dad is obliviously describing with triumph sounds too much like really crappy parenting.
Olympic runner Kara Goucher joined the criticism. She said in a tweet, “I don’t know who needs to hear this but a six year old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically. A six year old does not understand what embracing misery is. A six year who is ‘struggling physically’ does not realize they have the right to stop and should.”
In an open letter posted on their website, marathon organizer Iris Simpson Bush defended the decision to let the entire Crawford family run, noting, “the father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless. They had done it as bandits, in prior years, before we had any knowledge of it and we knew he was likely to do so again.”
Simpson did add that in the future their requirement that runners be at least 18 will be strictly enforced.
Experts have also weighed in, also on the side of not letting a six year old run a marathon, especially if they want to stop.
"If a young child were to run a marathon, I'm worried about electrolyte abnormalities, nausea, vomiting, heatstroke, all these signs and symptoms that may not be that clear in a young child," Dr. Alok Patel told Good Morning America. He was also concerned about the fact that six-year-old kids’ growth plates are still growing — and extreme activity could be dangerous.
While it’s good not to pass judgements on other parents — when a kid’s safety is at risk is where many draw the line.