Wednesday, January 10, 2018

At What Age???

5k:  Ava Johnson, Megan Crum, Aaron Westrip, Daniel Skandera
10k:  Ava Johnson, Carrie Garritson, Aaron Westrip, Grattan O’Neill, Caleb Hymans
Half Marathon:  Tabitha Francks, Nasiya Jobe, Matthew Feibusch, Charlie Westrip, Grattan O’Neill
Marathon:  Mary Etta Boitano, Tabitha Francks, Julie Mullin, Kevin Strain, Wesley Paul, Charlie Westrip

According to the Association of Road Racing Statistics, each of these runners holds a world record time in the event listed. The surprising part of their record? Their age at the time; ranging from 3 (Aaron 5k) to no more than 12 years and several of these runners hold multiple age range records. When I reviewed published reports and comments and quotes from these runners and their parents, they all used the words “fun, family sport, exercising.” There was no mention of “punishment or because my parents made me.” Many families see it as bonding time and a chance to travel. In fact, youth half marathon times dropped quite a bit in 2016.

Nike has a website called Marathon Kids; the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued statements in the past about distance running for children. Some physicians and coaches recommend no marathons until past the age of puberty. The AAP reports that sprint distance triathlons are a good thing because they incorporate “lifetime sports, short sensible distances, non-specialized training before puberty and have health and weight benefits.” There is a lot of confusion, concern and conflicting information.

However, for those of us who set policies for our events, council our race directors to say no to a parent of a 6-year-old who wants to run our marathon what is the best answer? We know that our kids of today are not physically active – many are couch potatoes. We know schools have cut back on many non-academic programs including physical education and recess due to budget costs. We know 12% of our youth are seriously overweight and have health issues because of it. We also see more event weekends with kids activities added in to attract families and not just mom or dad runners.

So what is the answer? How does your event answer this question?


  1. There is no data to determine the age to start running or what distances are safe at a given age. We are trying to get some data on the outcomes in adults who ran marathons when they were younger than age 18.

    If you ran a marathon when you were younger than 18, or know someone who did, please go to
    Or you can visit our FaceBook site at

  2. One important question to ask when planning the medical coverage of an endurance race is: how many participants are under age 18? As a medical director I have found that having ambulances who are comfortable dealing with possible pediatric issues makes your job easier on race day to be prepared. Also, alerting your local emergency departments concerning the possiblity of a pediatric runner needing care makes for a quick and easy phone call. Lastly, we staff our marathon first aid tent with pediatic ED staff and a sports medicine specialist (a luxury that we have) in case the possibility of a race related casualty. Next time you are at your race planning meeting as the race director if he knows how many runners are kids? What you do you think, is this helpful?

  3. Shelly,
    In Houston we have had hundreds of kid under 18 run either our marathon and many more our half marathon over the last 20 years. We are hoping to publish this data this year. The bottom line is we have never sent a runner under the age of 18 to the hospital. We have never had any that were significantly ill. In my opinion if the kids are directing their own participation but have the supervision of a parent or coach, they can and do participate. Contact or collision sports are probably more likely to produce harm than running a distance race.

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