Parents Respond After Backlash Over Letting Their 6-Year-Old Run Full Marathon

Ashley Hunte
The feet and legs of people running in a marathon.
Unsplash | Miguel A. Amutio

A marathon is a true test of physical endurance and can't be run by just anyone. Even people who train for months or years can find it difficult to get through that 26th mile.

So when a family recently ran a full marathon with their 6-year-old son, many people took to the internet to express their outrage and criticism at the decision.

Kami and Ben Crawford frequently run marathons with their family.

During the Flying Pig Marathon that recently took place in Cincinnati, the Crawfords ran alongside all six of their children, including 6-year-old Rainier Crawford, for the first time, People reports.

On the family's Instagram, Ben noted that the marathon was a challenge for Rainier.

"He was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes," Ben wrote in the post.

"After 7 hours, we finally got to mile 20 and only to find an abandoned table and empty boxes. He was crying and we were moving slow so I told him I'd buy him two sleeves if he kept moving."

While the family celebrated the achievement, many found the decision to let the youngest Crawford participate to be highly questionable.

Olympic runner Kara Goucher took to Twitter to express her own concerns for the child, adding, "I'm not questioning motivation or saying it is bad parenting. But as an Olympic athlete, I promise you this is not good for the child."

In a separate post, Australian Olympian Lee Troop criticized both the family and the event organizers.

And of course, even non-runners were angry at the decision to let the 6-year-old run in what was sure to be a physically taxing event.

On Instagram, the family responded to the backlash.

"We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally. We have given all of our kids the option for every race," Ben and Kami wrote in the post.

They also wrote that Rainier chose to run.

"This year after begging to join us we allowed our 6 year old to train and attempt it," the post continues. "Both parents gave him a 50/50 chance of completing it and were ready to pull the plug at any moment if he requested it or if we viewed his safety at risk."

They also responded to some runners who'd witnessed the boy crying during the marathon.

"Yes there were tears. He had a fall and every single member of our family has cried during marathons. These experiences were very limited compared to what has been reported..." the post reads."

They wrote that the witnesses' accounts of Rainiers crying were exaggerated.

"With our finishing time this is impossible as we finished the last 5 miles predominately alone and most people's experience with us was in a one time passing of 30 seconds."

The organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon also released a statement.

An open letter from event organizer Iris Simpson states, "This decision was not made lightly.  The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless.  They had done it as bandits, in prior years, before we had any knowledge of it and we knew he was likely to do so again."

"Our decision was intended for some amount of safety and protection for the child."

"I assume full responsibility for the decision and accept that it was not the best course of action.  Our requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed moving forward."

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!