Every once in a while you come across stories of kids running long-distance races. A friend recently passed along an article about a 9-yr. old boy who recently finished a 10-mile race in Syracuse. I know of a local girl who last year, at the age of 11 did a 1/2 marathon (she was about 15 seconds ahead of me, so yeah, I noticed her.) And every time I see or hear about one of these feats, I get mixed feelings.
How much is too much for kids when it comes to mileage? I don’t know the answer. The only yardstick I have to compare is my own 10-yr. son. He’s a solid athlete and likes to run 5ks. In fact, he likes to push himself to lower his times. But can I see him running a 10-miler? Not really and my gut tells me that I shouldn’t let him, either.
The flip side of the argument, I suppose, is that we’re a sedentary nation and that if kids want to run distances, then why discourage them? I read the article about the 10-yr. old in Syracuse and from the sounds of it, he wasn’t pushed by his parents in any way; he just thought it would be cool to run 10 miles.
A local youth coach that I know–a really good, experienced coach–uses this rule of thumb with kids: They should run races of distances that are no longer than the grade they are in. So for my fourth grader, a four miler is about where it should end. This seems pretty reasonable and also about what I think my son would/could do at his age.
What are your thoughts?