Kids and running: How young is too young, and how far is too far?

Tajh and Teagan Redden. (sevenwildandfree.com photo)

Tajh and Teagan Redden. (sevenwildandfree.com photo)

The other night I was at a party and met up with a couple who do a lot of running. The wife had run some of the races I did, and we talked about one of them – the Snake Run – and how we saw these two kids, two brothers, who were blowing the doors off the rest of us.

We had run the three-hour race. Those kids, who were like 12 and 9 at the time, had raced the six-hour event. I later came to learn that these two dynamos had run numerous races (I saw them in the previous month’s Post Oak Challenge trail race), some of which were marathon length or longer.

It amazed me that kids that young would have the interest and ability to do these types of events.

Then I read an article on Outside magazine’s website about another family with young kids who run ultras. Amazing, right? But in the article, the Seth and Sabrina Redden mention that they’ve taken a lot of heat from people who criticize them for letting their kids run races like those.

My guess is the family’s critics think kids’ bodies aren’t made for that sort of workload, but run they do.

So what do you think? How young is too young for kids to run half-marathons? Marathons? Ultras?  Or is there even such a thing as “too young?” Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have stories of your own about you or your kids, feel free to share.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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4 thoughts on “Kids and running: How young is too young, and how far is too far?

  1. I’m certainly no authority on children’s sport physiology, but seeing Kenyan children pounding out mile after mile, hour after hour, and these same youngsters becoming successful athletes as adults . . .
    Well, there must be a lesson there, somewhere. Or?

  2. I have watched Brandon and Cameron Plate (now age 13 and 12) run for 4-5 years, and they never cease to amaze me. As Race Director of the Snake Run, Lake McMurtry, Pumpkin Holler, and co-Rd of Turkey and TATURs, I would not allow youngsters into one of the longer events if I were not sure they could safely do it. In the Plate’s case, I know their abilities very well. They know how to pace their selves, how to reel it back, how to properly hydrate, and when to call it a day if things are not going well. They have dropped from races when things did not feel right for them. Their dad talks to me about their plans occasionally, and I have given them advice about what I thought they could do and shouldn’t do. Both of them are Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. Both of them finished the Midnight Madness 50 miler. and Both of them will compete this weekend at the Silverton 1000–a race which has a 24 hour, 49 hour, 72 hour, and an 18 day event where those foolish enough to try can run 100 miles. The Plate boys are doing the 48 hour event and gunning for 100 miles. I wish I were going with them.

    • First off, those kids are phenomenal. And I appreciate you helping me get their ages right.

      You listed an important aspect to this: making sure the kids involved are competing within their abilities and are aware of what’s in front of them, what it will take to finish, and when to pull the plug. Good take, TZ. As always!

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