Racing with the Kids!

While scanning the ever-growing roster of Maine races coming up in 2015, I noticed a number of familiar races, including Race The Runways, and Dynamic Dirt, added fun runs and kid races to their line-up this year. I found this to be really encouraging, and immediately wondered, “How do you get your kids interested in running?”

When one thinks of a family sport or activity, thoughts commonly land on tossing a softball around the backyard, or kicking a soccer ball back and forth. Running with kids can be just as rewarding and certainly part of a healthy family lifestyle. There’s no doubt that running has taken off in the US. According to Running USA, a website that tracks racing data, the number of adult race finishers increased 300% between 1990 and 2013. What’s popular with parents often becomes popular with kids, but how to get them out of the cheering section and onto the pavement?

I spoke with Owen Libby, K-8 Phys. Ed teacher for Maine RSU-10, from his home at Libby Ridge Organics in Dixfield. Libby, a runner himself, feels strongly that it can be a great activity for kids, “Running has such a positive effect on physical health, and also goes a long way to reduce stress levels.” According to Libby, the best way to get kids running is simple, let them run with you. “Kids like to exercise with their parents, and it’s nice to see them running together, and not just dropping them off at sports practices.” He suggested that for little kids, the 1K fun runs are the best option, and he also noted that for younger ages with limited attention spans, kids would be more interested in theme runs, and events that offers prizes. Once kids hit Jr. High, most with a bit of training are able to run 5Ks.

Kids, like adults, just need a decent pair of shoes for running. Even then, they don’t need anything fancy. The shoes they use for gym class will be fine in most cases. Since kids are smaller and not as visible to cars, try running at a local track or running trails. Keep family runs light and fun, running with your kids is probably not the best time to do your serious speed work or heavy training. Many kids, especially younger ones, love to intersperse hard sprints with leisurely walks, and might even include skipping and dancing. Finally, try to create a running schedule so that you and your kids have dedicated time each week, or even each day to spend time running together.

Before heading out to the races with your kids, be sure to check on age requirements. Some, like Color Run, allow all ages to participate but kids 6 and up must register and wear a bib. Race The Runways ‘recommends’ kids ages 5-10 participate, but welcomes all at their .3 miler this April. The Dynamic Dirt Family Fun Fest, new this year, only accepts racers ages 6 and up, 12 and under must run with an adult. There are many more options around the state this season, so check the calendar, and more importantly lace up your shoes and get out there, together!

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