I have a general opinion question for all of you whose expertise I respect! My 13yr old son is training for the Country Music 1/2 in Nashville in April. To my non-runner's eye, this seems like a reasonable goal for him. He is a good runner for his age (PR of 5:42 mile, 21:00 5k)and is really excited about doing the 1/2. His current training level is approx 6-8 miles 3-4x per week, which he is completing fairly easily at roughly a 7:45 - 8:00 pace. His goal is to break 1:50 for the 1/2. He is trying not to increase his mileage too rapidly, and seems to have plenty of time left for increasing mileage and tapering. My question is this - the reactions from area runners and non-runners alike range from amazement to mortification that he would attempt this at his age. Am I a "bad Mom" for encouraging this, i.e. is it truly a bad idea for a 13yr old to run that distance? By the way, there were a handful of runners in his age group last year, although I'm not sure that makes me feel any better.
Thanks for the insight.
you should be aware of risk involved. you should research some more but I recall issues w/ adolescent runners and damage to their growth plates - that could be a big problem. here's an older paper from AAP that was pretty good:
goals for 2011:
break 19minutes for 5k
break 2:42 for olympic triathlon probably Anthracite olympic
break 3:16 for marathon ( a long shot but it's fun putting yourself out there)
Distance running, especially when the kids are growing fast, can cause the leg muscles to develop unevenly, pulling on the knee or hip connections (causing pain). My daughter developed this issue running cross-country in her mid-teens and has had to do extensive physical therapy to create the proper muscle balance. You might want to discuss with his pediatrician and see what he/she recommends to avoid this.
Actually, I'm surprised he can register for the 1/2 marathon- many of them have 16-yr age cut-offs, and higher ages for marathons.
Hard call to make - you never want to discourage your kid from setting goals, working toward them and being active! But a little caution could prevent a lot of future problems. Good luck!
1. My little sister ran the Indy Mini (13.1 miles) when she was 9. She didn't train, but played soccer most days of the week. She ran the whole way and finished in 2:20.
2. Here in Indy, there is a middle school where they train 6th graders to run the Indy Mini. I think around 20 - 30 of them do this per year, and it's been going on for over a decade.
Good for you for enocuraging your son to stay in shape!
I understand the worry about injury. But, there is that risk no matter how old you are. I did a marathon in October and had to do physical therapy too, and I'm not 13.
I read an amazing article in Runners World about a coach in inner-city LA who trains high school students (some not much older than your son) to run the LA Marathon. Apparently the kids that have gone though his program nearly all graduate from high school, a stark contrast from the rest of the school population. That says a lot about the power long distance running can have on self image.
I guess my point is, many kids have run this distance and been fine. Many adults have run this distance and gotten hurt. You just never know, but that isn't going to stop me from running.
In my own childhood, I had a tendency to overlook aches and pains. Kids do not think about being 40, or even 20. With that in mind, I say let him run, but make yourself and your son aware of signs to look out for that might signal something serious. The articles mentioned in earlier post and your doctor are a good place to start.
I mean he could be playing football, soccer, videogames, riding a bike, eating McDonalds every day, or any number of things that people let their kids do that have much greater downsides than running.
It never ceases to amaze me how scared non-runners are for runner's health and well being.
Thank you all for your replies. My son is actually training with some kids at his middle school in a program similar to the one in Los Angeles. Unlike a lot of the others, though, he was already a runner prior to being invited to join this team.
He absolutely loves running, and I am not inclined to dissuade him from pursuing something he enjoys that is also good for him. Having had 6 knee surgeries myself, I am very aware of the potential for over-use injuries. I do make sure that he has good shoes, and he has been fitted for custom orthotics, which have helped the aches & pains remain at what I feel is probably a "normal" level for a runner. I think one thing that helps is he's also a triathlete. The time he spends on his bike has really helped his quads develop, which, in my experience, is a major factor in long-term knee stability.
He ran his 1st 10k race this weekend, and finished a respectable 45th/167, in 47:20...it was 26 deg. with 15-20 mph winds, so he was pleased overall.
Thanks again for the responses. I appreciate all of the comments - pro and con!
My niece would love to run in a half marathon. she has not done one yet, but is very active in soccer and track and field at her school. She is 11 years old and we are trying to find a half marathon event she would be able to run in despite her age. I am hoping someone out there might be able to direct me to a half marathon for kids.
Thanks for letting me know about the Country Music Half. Her birthday is before March. It's to soon for her to do this one. We are looking for something in the fall this will give her enought time to train. Good luck to your son in Nashville. I think your a good Mom to encourge your son to do something he loves.
basic response. 5k is a more age approprite distance for a developing body. work on the tempo, increase the mileage later. 5k is about the limit of where i have the kids in my squad and have produced several national champions over the years
Good luck I'm sure he'll do well, maybe better than 1:50; but 1:50 sounds right. I would make sure he has a couple good pairs of shoes that fit and switch off, don't wear the same shoes every day. At that age one of the main warning signs of over training are frequent colds, flus, sore throats. So if you find him getting sick, have him back off on the training. Also as his Mom you can help out a lot with good nutrition. Buy him whey protein and mix up a shake with milk after workouts. His growing body needs the added protein. Also supplement his diet with vitamin C, B, E and beta carotene. Definitely keep the communication channels open and treat any injuries while they are in the minor stage. Rest days are important. If possible have him work out one day every week, or twice a month with a personal trainer. The muscle groups of a runner at that age can become unbalanced or over developed due to the repetitive one directional nature of running. A trainer or coach can develop specific stretching and plyometric/functional drills to balance out these tendencies. Stay involved, keep it real.
I really don't like the idea. There's a difference between keeping your child healthy and promoting sports and competing in a tough 13.1 miles. Think of how hard it is for adults to do it. I think the constant pounding on his legs will have long term affects. I trained like an animal in HS, but as a result had nothing in college. It's very common to see good runners at an early age and then either loose interest in the sport or just the body giving up. I think he's in those important years of his life when he's growing at a rapid pace. I'm sure he'll do just fine during the race. Kids have lot's of energy, but you have to ask yourself.. what's the point of him racing that distance?