I just don’t see the point in rehashing the “should they or shouldn’t they have” debate re: the NYC marathon cancellation so I am choosing not to 🙂 Instead I want to rant about another topic – kids doing endurance events. There was a great article in the NY Times yesterday that profiled two young girls, sisters aged 10 and 12, and their adventures in running. They are both talented, running distances and times that many adult women would kill for (the 1:28:39 older sister Katylynn recently ran? Yeah, pass the rat poison and give me a name!). The story bounces between talking about the girls accomplishments (impressive), their dad’s coaching (borderline overboard? or just a dad pushing his girls to their potential? undecided over here) and whether running is dangerous to them.
It’s the last one that gets my rant on – I just don’t understand why distance running is automatically assumed to be hurtful to people. Despite the fact that the girls are well-trained, that we let children the same age participate in myriad of contact sports and don’t bat an eye or that our bodies have evolved to RUN, you just can’t get away from the popular cultural conviction that running is bad news bears. The sisters have been continuously monitored by doctors (and given the go-ahead by them), are likely much healthier than some of their sedentary counterparts and are participating in a sport the way millions of other kids do with more mainstream activities and yet they are under a microscope for just putting one foot in front of the other.
The comment section really got my hackles up:
“These girls are too young to have such a grueling schedule that does not include kid activities”. Since when is running not a kid activity??!!
“These girls are clearly not emotionally mature enough for these events…Endurance events of this caliber can ravage the heart of a competitor. The extreme highs and lows that often come with these race are tough to manage for adults and clearly the parents are not helping them develop in this area” *lifts megaphone* “Step off your soapbox!” Yes, running can be transcedent, but since when are emotions only for the adults? Can’t you remember being 12?? Complex stuff happening in the grey matter by then, guys. And I don’t think we can determine how the kids are parented from one dude’s article.
“Why do they run in tiny sports bras? Those tops seems very inappropriate for little girls.I don’t know why they aren’t wearing a full shirt.” Obviously not a runner.
To be clear, I am not saying I think that the Dad is the kind of coach they need – maybe he pushes them too hard, but maybe that is what young competitive hearts need. Do we really have to live in a world where the only achievements are participation awards? But that is neither here nor there, I can’t really comment on him and his parenting from a few sound bites from one article. My bigger gripe is the idea that kids can’t run distance.
Happily, there were some positive comments following the online article but my favorite part of the story was when the girls were running and working hard on a trail run and their fellow (adult) racers were giving them support:
“Carlyn Peterson, a 29-year-old ultrarunner, caught up to the exhausted girl. Her attitude about endurance was: the pain never goes away, so you just have to make room for it. She slapped Kaytlynn on the bottom and said, “You’re fine, keep going.”” Swoon! Women encouraging the next generation! Yes!
After the race, “’You killed it, kid!’ one man said as he approached. ‘Give me a high-five!’”
Will the girls stick with running? Is their dad off his rocker? Who knows!? But I hope that kids running endurance events (with proper training and nutrition, of course) will one day be accepted and embraced. Maybe we’ll even look back at this the same way as we think back to when women were not encouraged/allowed to run long distance (for the record, there has been nary a jiggle in this uterus, nevermind it falling out, lol!)
Run on, kiddos of the world!