Is running the new big sport for kids?

Soccer is so 1990s. Apparently running is the new in sport for kids.

From USA Today:

” ‘Kids’ runs are taking off,’ says Bart Yasso, a writer and running expert at Runner’s World magazine, who attends races almost every weekend.”

“Yasso says that in recent years many race organizers have added 1-mile ‘fun runs’ to their agendas in an effort to accommodate adult runners who drag their little ones along to events. More proof of the trend: Until recently, the youngest award category at many races was “18 and under,” but now you see that group broken down further by age, says Kathy Dalby, event director for Pacers Running Stores in the D.C. area.”

“The Marine Corps Marathon 1-mile fun run, which took place a week ago in Washington, drew 3,000 children this year, many of whom are the kids of marathoners, says Tami Faram, public relations coordinator for the event.”

The event started 11 years ago with only about 670 kids.

Girls on the Run International, a non profit non-profit that provides schools and communities with the blueprints for a 12-week program that culminates in a 5K race, is popular in many Atlanta schools.

Founded in Charlotte in 1996 with 13 girls the group now has more than 70,000 participants ages 8 to 12 in 3,700 locations.

From USA Today:

” ‘Our mission is to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. So while running is part of the program, it’s just a piece of it,’ says Elizabeth Kunz, president of Girls on the Run International.”

So are your kids picking up the running bug? Is your school encouraging running as a sport or after-school activity? Does your school have a Girls on the Run or similar program at it? How do you feel about running as a tool to help build esteem? How do you feel about it as a solitary sport versus a group sport like soccer?

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November 15th, 2010
6:38 am

There is a Girls on the Run program at my middle school, and it is so popular that girls are turned away—-there is a limit on the number of girls who can register, apparently, in order to keep the group small enough for meaningful small-group discussions.

I much prefer a solitary sport to a group sport for personal growth and self-esteem. Growth happens when one sets goals and works to achieve or even surpass them. Running is perfect for that.

On the sidelines of a kids’ running event, all you hear are shouts of encouragement, not shouts from the coach correcting or directing ……or parents trying to achieve their unfulfilled dreams through their children…….or suburbanites competing as to who brought the coolest snack or bought the nicest gear bag for their kid.

People don’t need a lot of athleticism to run. I tried every sport available to girls in the 70’s in my small school, and I was terrible at all of them. But running—-now that’s a different story. I have strength, endurance, and an inner drive to run faster than I ran that distance before….and a drive to run faster than whomever is in front of me. No private lessons, no summer skills camps, no uniforms, no public embarrassment when my lack of skills keeps the team from winning.

Running can be a life-long sport and can be done in some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Not only that, win or lose, the endorphins from running feel a LOT better than the consolation ice cream cone for the losing team at Dairy Queen.


November 15th, 2010
7:00 am

Jodee, last I checked there are winners and losers in running. Check out, they always seem to put the finishers in order. Look, I’m not slamming running as a meaningful sport or athletic pursuit, but I struggle with your reasons, “no coach directing or correcting”; yes, how dare someone assume to direct or correct my child in an athletic endeavor. Your kidding, right? “Parents trying to achieve thier unfulfilled dream…”. I’ve seen that for sure. But still, that’s painting with a pretty broad brush. Soccer, basketball and other sports can teach a child a lot about individual abilities and goal achievement. It can also teach them teamwork, which I think is important. Anyway, just my two cents worth.


November 15th, 2010
7:06 am

Great news! Mine are not runners but anything that can get kids moving is wonderful, in my book.

@ JoDee…I loved this:

Running can be a life-long sport and can be done in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

FYI…in regards to Friday’s topic…I read this in the November Good Housekeeping UNPLUG YOUR KIDS:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of media time per day.”

Not much when you consider cell phones, ipods, video games, computers and TV.

I have a dear neighbor who was and is very strict about this. Her second child was just offered a 4 year full ride to a neighboring state college, The letter, sent to him, indicated that he is one of the brightest HS Seniors in the United States. The Mom told me and I congratulated her. He studies, plays an instrument, attends church and works part time. Oh …he RUNS too! CONGRATS to their family. A fine young man! Hard work has seemingly paid off.

Fred (with a capitol "F")

November 15th, 2010
7:11 am

My daughter is 16 now so I don’t know that she qualifies in the age group this is directed to but she ran the ING Georgia Half Marathon with me last March. In fact she was the one who wanted to as I had decided to pass on it this year. When she was younger she like to run the 5Ks at the events where I was going longer and she really liked the Peachtree Jr the year she did that. MARTA had some unexpected issues that morning and she was almost crying when she thought we were going to miss it so we left the station and grabbed a cab to get there! I see LOTS of kids at the events I participate in.


November 15th, 2010
7:23 am

Well, let’s not start the day off on a bad foot here. Sports are great for children of all ages and being someone who has been involved in sports since I was 5, I know all about the pitfalls. Many times it is the parents who make things as crazy as they do- this is from a coach, ref and player. Regardless the topic is running.

While I LOVE running and my four year old loves it as well and has been going on runs with me as soon as she was able to be in the jogging strolle. She asks to go on runs and always wants to attend my races as well. I think it is great that so many children are getting involved and can see adults of all shapes, sizes and ffitness levels out there trying to do what they need to do. It is something that is inexpensive to start, but I always recommend proper shoes, maybe a stop watch with an interval timer and a running guide to get started with. Proper form, breathng and the correct shoes will help keep kids and adults alike from getting hurt and dashing any goals they had for running and many books out there can get you running safely for a long time. I stress the safety of it because I have had many injuries and now have to run with caution, braces and medication- but I still do it. It becomes a sickness with some people like myself.

By the way, who wouldn’t want to see kids out at races or running in a small one while there? I think that anything that gets kids and parents alike moving and active the better. Heck, I wish they had an even smaller race for the little kids who are not ready to run a full mile yet.


November 15th, 2010
7:33 am

it’s called TRACK or CROSS COUNTRY….and if you figured out a way to screw your kids up in soccer, basketball, etc.. pretty sure you will screw your kids up in….running?

Sk8ing Momma

November 15th, 2010
8:00 am

Apparently not enough kids are running. Anything that encourages children to (safely) move and helps make a dent in the childhood obesity epidemic should be promoted. There is value in both team and individual sports. Competitive and recreational running should be promoted.

Happy running!


November 15th, 2010
8:06 am

Neither of my kids are runners. My son would much rather play soccer than run. When they were younger they each ran track, but they no interest now. My daugher loves working out on equipment at the gym. To each his own. As long as kids are exercising then it’s a good thing.


November 15th, 2010
8:47 am

I’ve been a runner for 19 years now (finished in the top 500 of peacthree 6 times). Running is a great sport for certain people, but it is not for everyone on a long term regular basis. It is a great and relatively cheap exercise.

I’m personally offended by the “Girls on the Run” concept because by it’s title it deliberately makes boys feel left out and creates an atmosphere that leads to separation instead of inclusion. What are we doing to the self esteem of boys? It seems we aren’t as concerned about it as a society in general. What is this going to lead to when these boys grow up to become “men”? I think we should be equally concerned about the messages we send to ALL kids, regardless of their gender. You can’t explain to a boy who is 9 about how it’s “girls’ turns” to be in the limelight for something that was perceived to have happened to some woman prior to his birth. That’s not fair to any child.


November 15th, 2010
9:05 am

My son’s school has running/walking incentives. They participate in PE class, and they have walking lanes, jogging lanes and running lanes on the track. They get special recognition after completing certain mile numbers, such as mentioned in the school newsletter, a new water bottle, etc. My 7 year old son is very excited to hit 10 miles this week. They do a very good job of motivating them. I think it’s great. Running is something that just about anyone can do and all you need is a good pair of shoes. You can run anywhere!!


November 15th, 2010
9:29 am

WOW -already heated comments on what I thought would be a rather benign topic! I LOVE this idea/fact/whatever that more kids are getting into running at early ages. As others have said, running is something that just about every person -especially every young person who hasn’t yet damaged knees, hips, etc. can do. It’s FREE except for needing a decent pair of running shoes, and contrary to what the big boys would have you believe -you’ll be okay in WalMart or Target running shoes -particularly if you have young, flexible joints and bones! You can also do it anywhere, and it’s an athletic skill/program that translates right into adulthood with no problem. I know there are many adult soccer, tennis, swimming, baseball and basketball leagues out there, but running is far easier and doesn’t involve the additional time commitment of half days on weekends, once or twice a week practices, costly fees (for adults or kids) and the time it takes to get to and from the event area.

I love to run. I’ve let it slide a bit over the past few years, but I’m getting back into it full-force with the goal of finally realizing my dream of completing a marathon. I DO realize that not everyone is a runner, and not everyone enjoys it or ever will, but I think it’s fabulous to encourage our kids to get into it -and if it’s not their thing -go in a different direction. While I’m hoping my kids both can take advantage of the valuable lessons and fun involved in playing team sports at some point, right now my oldest is NOT into teams! He shares and gets along with other kids just fine, but hates playing on a team. We’ve tried basketball and soccer so far with disastrous results, but he LOVES running and swimming (two athletic pursuits you can do on your own). You know what? I was just like him. I played on teams because of peer pressure, but I hated it. I’ve always loved running though!

@rcs -I think the above is more of what JoDee was getting at -not that it’s awful to get direction from coaches or learn to lose, but that some kids are NEVER going to be good at a team sport. They’re NEVER going to be on a winning team and are likely to play so badly that they screw it up for the other kids and become the target for ridicule and abuse. We all know that team sports can be valuable, but often a line is crossed into seriously messing with a kid’s self esteem (and NO, I’m not one of “those” parents -I’m fine with my kids being coached and learning that everyone screws up and losing, but you know what I mean -8 year olds who are teased and made fun of by their teammates and singled out by crappy coaches). And yes, someone wins the race and even wins in different gender and age categories, but so many people are out running road races, that of course only a handful will win. Most people won’t! There’s nothing to feel bad about because you’re always going to finish with a few around you and it’s NICE to be cheered on -especially if you’ve never been good at anything before. Even as an adult who has been good at several things, I always get a boost when I round a corner or head down the home stretch during a road race and hear the cheers. Sometimes when you just think you can’t go any further -that gets you there. If that doesn’t teach a positive life lesson about supporting and boosting people who are trying their guts out, I don’t know what does.

@Jeff -why don’t you start a “Guys on the Run” movement? I would love to see it as the mother of two boys. I certainly don’t think “Girls on the Run” was started to cut boys out of anything, but as a way for unathletic and even really out of shape/obese girls to start getting fit in a “safe” environment where they wouldn’t be made fun of, cut from the team -and they might just drop some weight or become physically fit. It’s been especially successful in poor and lower class areas where exercise is basically unheard of unless you’re a guy playing football or basketball (or a girl who is talented in those sports). A good friend of mine heads this up at her elementary school, and a huge group of girls who never did anything athletic or “sweaty” have learned to run and LOVE IT! They just completed their first 5K on Sunday. How can anything be wrong with that?


November 15th, 2010
9:33 am

I would rather rake leaves for 3 hours, then run anywhere. I hate running, always have, always will.

I would rather go on a fast paced walk than run.


November 15th, 2010
9:36 am

Really, Jeff, I think the self-esteem of boys is going to be just fine. Since they are the ruling gender and all. There is nothing wrong with telling a boy that it’s “girls turn”. It teaches them to share the limelight.


November 15th, 2010
11:16 am

Jeff, I see your point, but as a former teenage girl (and it wasn’t that long ago) I cannot begin to tell you how little encouragement many girls get from their peers, friends and especially families when it comes to participating in sports. In my own family, my mother was convinced that girls should only participate in ballet and cheerleading, “nice” girls didn’t play sports. Of course, my mother was hopelessly old-fashioned (that’s a whole other story), but she wasn’t the only mom that felt that way then or now. Plus, boys can be incredibly competitive, which can be very intimidating to a less than athletic girl. Programs like Girls on the Run are just trying to create a safe environment for girls to develop their own athletic abilities, which they disparately need to do for both their physical and mental health.


November 15th, 2010
11:20 am

I have never been into running but my kids joined a homeschool sports club this year that, along with doing other athletic things, trains them to compete in kid marathons. We love it! It is the highlight of their week and has gotten the whole family a lot more active, as we try to walk/run between sessions.

I agree with others that it a cheap sport that one can do with or without other people, making it easy to fit into a busy lifestyle.


November 15th, 2010
11:44 am

Fair enough. I ran my first sprint Tri last year with over 1000 entrants, and needless to say, many were far better prepared than I was. As you alluded to in your own experiences, the cheering and encouragement I received from observers and participants during the each leg of the race really made a difference.
So understand, I’m not biased against individual pursuits and accomplishments, but I’m just not sold on adding one more feather in the “it’s all about you cap” that seems to be permeating our children’s world today. As a goal of at least being active, better running than nothing. But as an opportunity for exercise, education and real world preparation, join a team, play your hardest, lose sometimes, keep playing anyway…


November 15th, 2010
12:23 pm

We have a school of over 600, and virtually none of them would run unless it ended with a free video game or free pizza. Absolute couch potatoes. At recess it is pitiful to see the total inertia, except for jaws working as they chow down on junk food.


November 15th, 2010
1:20 pm

@Jeff–I can hear where you’re coming from. However my 10 yo informed me that since she wants boys to like her she needs to dumb it down, quit soccer, and the viola. UH NO NO NO NO NO


November 15th, 2010
4:43 pm

My husband and I are runners, but we both picked it up in college. Before then, I was softball and he was soccer. I completed my first marathon this year, and he will complete his first next spring. I’m six months pregnant now and still running five days a week – it’s my therapy! When I’m stressed out, the best thing for me to do is take off on a good, therapeutic, sweat-inducing run. When I was pregnant with my son, I ran up until my due date (he was a week late).

My husband is running the half-marathon on Thanksgiving and we are leaning toward registering our two-year-old in the 50-yard drumstick dash. We push him in the jogging stroller on our runs, and he thinks running is awesome. I couldn’t be happier that he’s showing interest in some kind of physical activity.

Everyone has their own niche, and it transforms throughout our lives. But as long as we can find a way of staying active, great. I think encouraging running is good; so many other sports require running for success.


November 15th, 2010
6:23 pm

@rcs, you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Maybe a good, long run would help. My kid was the one that JATL alluded to…and so was I. With running, we get to enjoy moving our bodies, without getting teased or ridiculed by our peers or adults because we have no athletic skills.

By the way, I think my spelling skills are superior to yours…….. I was the champion speller in my school in 8th grade, even though I was terrible at sports, and I know how to spell you’re and their in their correct contexts.


November 15th, 2010
10:54 pm

Well growing up, I liked to run around the neighborhood but not run for fun….I now wish I had. My 9-year old daughter’s private elementary school requires PE everyday. She has lost seven pounds and this week they are running 3 miles during PE. I notice a huge difference in her attitude too.


November 15th, 2010
10:54 pm

Running improved my life tremendously as an adult. I wish I had started it when I was a kid.

Whenever I’ve seen young runners at races, I only hear cheers of encouragement from the sidelines. I’m one to join the chorus.

Running is an incredible stress reliever and the only competition is what you put on yourself. If more children and young adults ran, we’d have fewer discipline problems at school and home, stronger families with parental participation, higher academic potential and fewer health problems.


November 16th, 2010
6:36 am

Hey Jodee, if having a different opinion than yours means I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, then I guess you’re (got it correct this time) right.
Congrats on the spelling championship. I see exactly how that helps refute my opinion. Good angle…