Parents Face Harsh Criticism After Including 6-Year-Old Son In 26 Mile Marathon

Athletic families can be both a blessing and a curse for young children. As kids are growing up they are likely to show an interest in certain activities that their parents introduce them to.

However, when children don’t have the same patience or passion for the things that their parents do it can sometimes cause tension in the family.

Pushing a child to do something can have the opposite effect

Many adults can recall a time in their childhood when their parents pushed them to try something with a bit too much force and it ended up having the opposite effect altogether.

Coach on soccer field with boys talking in huddle
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Photo Credit: Kampus Production / Pexels

Instead of embracing the sport or hobby, the child ends up resenting it, dreading when it’s time to practice.

Children are likely to have an interest in their parent’s activities

Of course, that’s not always the case. Children can become skilled at participating in their parents’ hobbies.

NHL All-Star Weekend LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 04: Jonathan Marchessaults youngest son, William skates around with the puck during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition Presented by DraftKings Sportsbook
Photo Credit: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Image
Photo Credit: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Image

For instance, kids who grow up playing some version of hockey at home before joining their first team are likely to have an easier time adjusting to the game than children who did not.

Kids rely on their parents to teach them about healthy commitments

When kids are young, it’s up to their parents to determine what sports they try and how long they have to stick them out.

Kelsey Grant/Getty Images
Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

Most children will feel the desire to “quit” or “give up” when a sport gets physically, mentally, or emotionally challenging for them. For a few years, it’s up to their parents to decide if the child should be allowed to bail on the commitment.

One family is facing backlash for running a marathon with their 6-year-old

Social media influencer parents Ben and Kami Crawford are facing backlash recently for running a marathon with their 6-year-old son, Rainier, in tow.

The parents have been longtime fans of running marathons and were eager to introduce their children to the love of the sport. But the family’s participation in their most recent run has people upset.

The race is over 26 miles long and took the family 8+ hours to complete

The backlash started when Ben, Rainier’s father, uploaded a picture of the six-year-old on the family’s Instagram profile.

The child had just completed the 26.2-mile Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio alongside his parents. The father explained that it took the family 8 hours and 35 minutes total to cross the finish line.

Fellow participants and strangers commented to shame the parents and the race organizers

Concerned commenters were quick to weigh in with their opinions drawing attention to the fact that Rainier was much too young to complete a marathon of that distance.

Man running in marathon with police escort driving slowly behind him and onlookers lining race route clapping
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels

Technically, the comments weren’t wrong. The popular Cincinnati marathon has a posted contestant minimum age of 18 years old but the event organizers made a special exception for the Crawfords to compete.

The Crawford family had been training for weeks leading up to the race

The Crawford family is familiar with intense physical activity. In 2018, they set the record for the largest family to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

Photos on the family’s Instagram page suggest they had been training for the marathon alongside Rainier leading up to the race but even the prep work looked grueling.

Rainier was “crying” and “struggling” but was motivated by a Pringles bribe

According to a caption written on the family’s Instagram post, Rainier was “crying” and “struggling physically” toward the end of the race. He started asking to “take a break and sit every three minutes.”

Procter & Gamble Pringles potato chips sit on display in a supermarket in New York, U.S
Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As an incentive to keep moving, Ben admitted they promised Rainier two cans of Pringles. The bribe worked and the little guy was able to push through to the finish line.

The Crawford family appeared on GMA to defend their lifestyle

After the story went viral on social media, mostly thanks to critics, Ben Crawford sat down on Good Morning America to discuss his and his wife Kami’s decision to include Rainier in the marathon.

“I didn’t know if he was going to be able to do it so to be able to run alongside him and to watch his little body, it’s pretty mind-blowing,” he told GMA.

The backlash on social media has been harsh

With the added attention online and from news outlets, the original social media post has sparked an even greater outcry after having been shared across multiple platforms.

Photo Credit: @fightfortogether / Instagram / Canva
Photo Credit: @fightfortogether / Instagram / Canva

Some people have suggested that the parents did it for likes on Instagram and others have gone as far as accusing the Crawfords of child abuse.

High-profile athletes weighed in on the conversation to shame Ben and Kami Crawford

Multiple high-profile athletes have spoken out in the wake of the story to advise other parents against doing something similar with their young children.

Australian Olympic marathon runner Lee Troop is one of many people who voiced concern for Rainier’s physical and emotional health. Troop sent a tweet criticizing both the parents and the race organizers for their decision.

Most children’s brains do not have the ability to “fathom what a marathon will do to them physically”

Kara Goucher is another athlete who spoke out via Twitter to shame the parents. Goucher is a two-time Olympian and long-distance runner who is well aware of the intense physical effort it can take to run distance.

Goucher argued that a 6-year-old does not have the ability to fathom “what a marathon will do to them physically.”

Children’s bodies are still figuring out the mechanics or motion and coordination

So, how bad is it really for a child to run 26+ miles before their body is finished developing? According to the Cleveland Clinic, “children’s bodies are still trying to figure out the mechanics of motion and coordination.”

Young girl running in green crop jersey in marathon
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Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels

If a child wants to take up running, the first thing to consider is their age.

There are solutions for kids who choose running as their sport

The site recommends that 7-year-olds and under (Rainier”s age group) should participate in “fun runs” which are races with distances between 1 and 2 miles or a 100-yard dash.

Child running and laughing wearing race pinnie number on shirt
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels

The runs should not be “long or extended” for this age group and their training regimen should not exceed one or two days a week.

Expecting a child to complete an adults course is unrealistic and unhealthy

Even if parents run slower than usual, take breaks regularly, and make sure to drink lots of water, there are more physical implications on a child’s body than what an adult would experience.

A mom and son selfie before the Aquarium of the Pacific Kids Fun Run in Long Beach
Photo Credit: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Running can be a healthy activity, but too much of a good thing can also be harmful.

The idea of “race time” should not matter at this age

Additionally, at such a young age the concept of “best time” should not be important to the child. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like the Crawfords have put any pressure on race times.

The family took their time to finish the Cincinnati marathon at a manageable pace. They have since reassured critics that Rainier does in fact have a love for the sport.

Commenters were shocked and even claimed it was child abuse

Comments on the original post and responses to the story on Twitter have been fairly critical of the athletic parents, Ben and Kami.

Comments from Instagram post shaming parents about including young son in a marathon
Photo Credit: @fightfortogether / Instagram / Canva
Photo Credit: @fightfortogether / Instagram / Canva

Despite the negative backlash, the family has kept their Instagram page open and viewable to the public. The parents continue to be flooded with comments about their “harmful” choice to include Rainier in the marathon.

Fellow runners recalled seeing Rainier crying throughout the course

Some commenters slammed the parents for using Rainier to get “likes” and “attention” on social media. However, a deeper dive into the Crawford’s social media proves that this was not the family’s first marathon.

Comments section from Instagram shaming parents for marathon with 6 year old
Photo Credit: @fightfortogether / Instagram / Canva
Photo Credit: @fightfortogether / Instagram / Canva

The family regularly participates in events as a team but the Cincinnati race was the longest distance they had tackled with their young son.

It’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s ability

Athletic parents who are already runners need to be hyper-aware of the demand that their fitness routine would have on their child.

Woman and 6 year old girl dressed in all black leotard inside glass panelled indoorcstudio
Photo Credit: Gustavo Fring / Pexels
Photo Credit: Gustavo Fring / Pexels

It is unrealistic to expect that children can compete at an adult level for an extended period of time. Their bodies are not equipped to handle the impact the same way which can cause problems with physical development later in life.

The family is standing by their stance with no regrets

Motivation is crucial for a child learning any sport or activity. The environment should be no-pressure and the child should always be allowed to have an “out” if they feel overwhelmed.

Ben and Kami have doubled down on their stance that their children are capable and willing to compete in races but people online are still not backing down.