I'm a runner. I love to run. And I want to share that love with my kids. The first time my son and daughter asked to run with me, I was ecstatic. And when they wanted to actually run a race? I had grand visions of my kids triumphantly crossing the finish line – arms raised high with big smiles, professing their love of running forever.
I'm not alone in wanting my kids to catch the running fever. Go to almost any local race and you're sure to find a kids' fun run. Even more, take a look at the runners toeing the line at your next race, and you'll most likely see kids of every age group.
So when your child is ready to run a 5K for the first time, here are some tips to help you pass the running baton.
Start small: Just like you wouldn't want to run a marathon as your first race, children should build up to a longer distance. Start with the kiddie dashes, build up to the one-mile fun run, and when they're ready, go for the 5K.
Make it a family affair: When everyone is involved, the race experience becomes more fun. You could even bring the dog along for some exercise if it's permitted in the race. Just be sure to line up in the back of the group at the starting line.
Run a little, walk a little, skip a little: When starting out, walking is a great way to allow for little breaks so that running is not overwhelming. Make it a game—run to the mailbox, walk to the driveway, skip to the corner. Don't make the child feel guilty for walking.
Run your own race: It's a rule for adults and kids alike, don't compare yourself to what others are doing. Pointing out that other kids are faster, farther ahead or not walking will only cause your child to want to stop.
Be a cheerleader: Shower your child with praise during the race and at the finish line. Be an encourager, not a pusher.
Keep it fun: Let the kids lead, let them be silly or run funny, whatever they need to do to keep it fun. When it stops being fun, that's when you'll lose the allure of running.
When the main goal is to have fun in a race, I believe that any child, regardless of age, can get out there and run a 5K. No pace goals, no set time: just pure running fun.
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