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How much running is too much for kids?
owen23
#1 Posted : Wednesday, May 25, 2011 3:09:00 PM(UTC)
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Anybody have any advice regarding too much running for kids? I am training for my first marathon in November. Because it is so far out, I am using Hal's intermediate program, but I extended it to 30 weeks out (took the first week of his program and subtracted a little going backwards, following the same patterns of heavy vs light runs and weeks). Right now I am running 5 miles on Saturday and 2.5 - 4 miles each of the other 4 running days. My 9 year old son (almost 10) has really taken a liking to running and has been running right along side me, even on my long runs. At what point will the weekly mileage be too much for him? Is 5 miles in a given run too much? We're running at a pace of about 8:45 per mile, and he is really enjoying it. My wife is worried it's too much.
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Martin VW
#2 Posted : Thursday, May 26, 2011 10:02:24 AM(UTC)

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Location: Outside Boston Looking In

Hey Owen! Controversial topic. I personally have been very conservative with my 11 year old, in part because he's on the bigger side (5'2", 105 lbs) so that means more stress on his developing bones. Not worried as much about soft tissue, he's a hockey player and his legs are pretty darn strong! But he is up to 3+ miles at about the same pace you've mentioned, and I do plan to stretch him out ot 5 this spring/summer.

I've consistently offered this article as being a pretty sensible and informed "guide" for age approriate running activities. They're not "pro" or "con" really, just advising caution.

http://www.runnersworld....38-267--11817-0,00.html

Hope it helps you and your wife to reach a consensus position!

Martin VW
Hal Higdon
#3 Posted : Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:02:40 AM(UTC)

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Location: Long Beach, IN

Let me first point you to the info on children's running on my website: Click!

But for someone that age, I would think an hour might be a "limit" of sorts with races at 5-K or 10-K, but not much more.

Half marathons for those a little older. Full marathons maybe age 16 to 18.

But we're all different, and that includes our children.


HAL HIGDON
Liz R
#4 Posted : Thursday, May 26, 2011 1:31:40 PM(UTC)
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Location: Texas

First of all, congrats that you have a kid who likes to run and likes to run with YOU! That's great. 

Second, I'd hold him at about an hour of running, too, but more because of psychological reasons than physical ones. You want to nurture this love of running (and of being with you), not burn it out. If it gets to be too long, or if it starts to feel like an obligation, he won't like it anymore. You want him running at 13, at 16, at 18, as an adult. Some restraint now can help him make it to that age as a runner. If he begins to balk at running with you, let him stop for the same reason. Of course, if he has any physical complaints, like shin splints or sleep problems or losing too much weight, dial it back.   

I have a 16 yo who sounds like your son. Loves to run, loves endurance sports in general. He wanted to run a half marathon at 13. I made him wait until high school. Could he have done it before then? Sure. I am always amazed at what he is capable of. But I worried about burn out, and I worried about him short changing some of the other activities he was involved in then, like football and basketball. I wasn't sure he'd play football beyond middle school (he didn't), so wanted him to enjoy it while he could. I knew he'd keep running. (Let me brag: he is high school xc, and has also run three halfs and done a half dozen triathlons up to Olympic length.)   

Is there a shorter race connected to your marathon? Like a 5K? Maybe that would be a way for your son to share in the fun without overdoing it.  

Liz R
Erica F
#5 Posted : Thursday, May 26, 2011 5:30:22 PM(UTC)
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Location: Long Island, NY

Our PE teacher won't let the students run the mile before 4th grade.  

 

I started running at 12 and did some 6 mile runs occassionally.  By HS XC (14), we ran 6-7 miles for our long runs.  No damage for me (knock on wood), but I did hit puberty at 12 and I hear that milestone has a lot to do with it.  

Sendtheboy
#6 Posted : Friday, May 27, 2011 10:46:16 AM(UTC)

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Location: Maplewood, NJ

My 9-yr old daughter participates in a local Girls on the Run program, which she really enjoys.  They work their way up to a 5K at the end of the fall and spring sessions.  Eligibility is based on grade, with 3rd being the minimum.

Alex Kubacki
#7 Posted : Friday, May 27, 2011 11:38:07 AM(UTC)

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Location: Western MA

The marathon I did three weeks ago had a 14yo in it.  When I was checking the results on Cool Running later I noticed he finished in 3:57 which I thought was incredible given the course. 

Alex Kubacki
jack_scaff
#8 Posted : Friday, May 27, 2011 2:34:50 PM(UTC)

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Ignoring the physical arguements, one thing just to consider is the mental one - make sure your kid does not burn out on it. I finished 2 marathons in 6th and 7th grades (finished, mind you, notice I didn't say run...7.5 and 6.5 hours).

I then took a 25 year hiatus from running!

To be the man you gotta beat the man. WOOOO
Hal Higdon
#9 Posted : Friday, May 27, 2011 2:43:31 PM(UTC)

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Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

In case you don't know, Jack is the son of the elder Jack Scaff, founder of the Honolulu Marathon.


HAL HIGDON
jack_scaff
#10 Posted : Friday, May 27, 2011 2:53:36 PM(UTC)

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Originally Posted by: Hal Higdon Go to Quoted Post

In case you don't know, Jack is the son of the elder Jack Scaff, founder of the Honolulu Marathon.

Thus the reason for the two at such a young age (wrong reason - impress Dad) and the subsequent break.

To be the man you gotta beat the man. WOOOO
owen23
#11 Posted : Saturday, May 28, 2011 8:27:55 AM(UTC)
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Posts: 6

Thanks for the great advice. It's an honor. Thanks for all you do.
Check out some free tools I've developed for runners: http://TazRunning.com/
mountandog
#12 Posted : Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:49:16 PM(UTC)
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Posts: 242

There is an excellent article in this month's Running Times, but I couldn't find it on their website.  You'll either have to buy the print version or wait until they post this issue.  In spite of their research, there is no conclusive answer, but the general tone of the article is to run.  For a 10 year old something in the neighborhood of 25 miles per week.  Good article and worth reading.

Jason J
#13 Posted : Thursday, June 02, 2011 9:39:04 PM(UTC)
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Posts: 370
Location: North Chili

Originally Posted by: mountandog Go to Quoted Post

There is an excellent article in this month's Running Times, but I couldn't find it on their website.  You'll either have to buy the print version or wait until they post this issue.  In spite of their research, there is no conclusive answer, but the general tone of the article is to run.  For a 10 year old something in the neighborhood of 25 miles per week.  Good article and worth reading.

+1 on this.  There was a great quote about how the children of this nation sit around playing videogames and watching tv...leading to obesity. But, once a child begins to run, our society begins to freak out.

-Even though this article is great, just be careful how in depth you read.  I read over the chart that the article provides and realized that it was referring to the young runner spotlighted in the piece.  She seems to be unique in her training ability, but also has been logging miles from a young age; age five if my memory is correct.  If you were thinking about an actual number of miles, it might be helpful to start at the beginning of this chart (when it comes out) and use those numbers as a guideline and slowly "build" from there.

Liz R
#14 Posted : Thursday, June 02, 2011 11:38:27 PM(UTC)
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Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

Good point about the sedentary kids. The parents who have asked this question haven't had that problem, at least not so far. The question has been about what is too much and not how to get a kid started. Even though I usually counsel against too much scheduling, I can imagine a situation in which a kid needs a rigid schedule to get him away from the xbox and on his feet.   

Liz R
Martin VW
#15 Posted : Friday, June 03, 2011 8:56:13 AM(UTC)

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Location: Outside Boston Looking In

There's an AWFUL lot of ground in between a 10 year old with a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet (let's not forget that one as the main contributor to childhood obesity) and a 10 year old running 25 MPW (5 miles 5 times a week? Too much solitary time, too much stress on developing bones and joints IMO).

 

Come take a look around my 11 year old's school (4th through 9th grade). Overweight kids are in the VAST minority. Almost all of the boys, I'm sure, play more than their share of video games, and there's hardly a runner there (they don't offer XC or track and field as sports until 7th grade). My son has an X Box and a laptop and a TV, but between school and homework and his after school activities (like Band and Drama), he probably averages well less than an hour a day of screen time. He has very little time to "play outside" during the week. He only plays one sport per season (addressing Liz's spot-on comment about not overscheduling our kids). Up until this year he's not been a runner, and even now, we're talking an occasiona 3 miler - like once every three weeks. And he's long and lean and strong as a bull.

Martin VW
jdunlv
#16 Posted : Sunday, June 05, 2011 3:56:50 PM(UTC)

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Ok, I'm back from the ACSM meeting in Denver where a group of big city marathon race directors/team doc's all agreed that there is no medical reason why a pre teen cannot run a marathon if the motivation is for fun and not undue parental pressure. However, that first marathon should be a small one, where the child won't get lost in a big city like Chicago or NY.

In Chicago, the age limit is 16. Administrative policy.

In one anecdote, two kids, ages 9 and 11, finished the marathon well before their dad, who left his cell phone in his race bag and could not be contacted. Fortunately, he told his kids to go straight to the medical tent when they finished. Yikes!!! on many fronts.

Kids who finish marathons actually are much less likely to use the medical tent than the rest of us. They are also more tolerant to heat stress than we are, a new finding in the last few years.

Jim

Martin VW
#17 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 9:28:09 AM(UTC)

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Location: Outside Boston Looking In

Originally Posted by: jdunlv Go to Quoted Post

Ok, I'm back from the ACSM meeting in Denver where a group of big city marathon race directors/team doc's all agreed that there is no medical reason why a pre teen cannot run a marathon if the motivation is for fun and not undue parental pressure. However, that first marathon should be a small one, where the child won't get lost in a big city like Chicago or NY.

In Chicago, the age limit is 16. Administrative policy.

In one anecdote, two kids, ages 9 and 11, finished the marathon well before their dad, who left his cell phone in his race bag and could not be contacted. Fortunately, he told his kids to go straight to the medical tent when they finished. Yikes!!! on many fronts.

Kids who finish marathons actually are much less likely to use the medical tent than the rest of us. They are also more tolerant to heat stress than we are, a new finding in the last few years.

Jim

 

I wasn't going to reply, because I generally find myself out on a limb, but what the heck, nobody reads the main form threads any more anyway.

 

Would love to see the sceintific study they've based their conclusions on, Jim. You know, the one where they've reviewed a couple of 1,000 pre-teen marathoners as they've reached age 50 - 60 and are able to definitively show that there's no long-term damage being done by the training and racing? Or has there been a big swing in the medical profession that says it's now OK to just base findings on anecdotal evidence? Didn't see anything in the papers.

 

The conclusion about the "big" vs. "small" marathon baffles me. Big marathons have FAR better support - medical and logistics - than small marathons, so that finding fails the "common sense" test. In most small marathons you run large chunks of the rtace in very sparsely attended areas and the medical tents are far more spread out. In a big race there are marshals everywhere that can help a young runner out. It seems a bit incongruous to me that they consider these pre-teens too immature to not get lost at the finish line but mature enough to be able to train on their own without getting lost. Or are they supposed to do their training around a track?

 

My bias is obvious, Jim. I appreciate your bringing the information forward. 9 - 12 year olds that like to run have a great many opportunties without including full marathons. Race directors and race doctors have a responsibility to be, well, responsible. This sends some messages that may be wrong. I saw a dad in my running club e-mails asking recently about how to help his 11 year old recover from shin splints, and not once did the dad indicate that maybe he should be cutting back on his son's running, given the hard evidence that some structural damage was being done to those immature bones and connective tissue.

 

And anticipating the argument that my son is a hockey player, I work with a dad (inducted in the Georgia Tech Hal of Fame for football and track and field) whose 14 year old, who is getting scouted for hockey, has had two concussions (one playing football, which he has now given up). He and I talk all the time about the issue. We just bought our son a helmet that one manufacturer offers that is the result of a sport-wide study being done to prevent head injuries, and once he gets his braces in a couple of weeks will have him fitted for a top-end mouth guard. We've also been to a podiatrist about a bump on his big toe and had his skates modified ("punched" to eliminate the pressure point. We are all over his involvement from a long term health perspective. Safety HAS to be the number one priority with children this young, and this conclusion just seems to not be completely baked.

Martin VW
Liz R
#18 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 1:44:02 PM(UTC)
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Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

Don't tell Gabe! I have him persuaded a half is enough until he turns eighteen. 

 

I am amazed at what kids are capable of physically. I can rmember limiting Gabe to an hour of running when he was 13, figuring that was about six miles in our Texas heat, and having him run eight miles in that time, no problem. Interesting, Diego. I will still limit my kids' running, too, but not so much on a physical basis as a missed opportunities basis: marathons will be there to be run when they are in their thirties, but team sports won't be. I mean cross country team by that as well. I want Gabe to enjoy his days on a cross country team and not go off and run his own crazy races when that would interfere with his high school running. He can run crazy with me when he gets older.    

Liz R
Just_call_me_Ed
#19 Posted : Thursday, June 16, 2011 5:13:07 PM(UTC)
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Posts: 243

My 9 year old ran a marathon in 4:17 -- finished 2 minutes in front of me when we were separated a bit over a mile from the finish.

5 or 6 hours later, when we got home, he was in the driveway riding his bike. Next morning playing soccer in the front yard with his sister. I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary about him, I think kids who are in shape, don't find jogging a 10 minute mile for hours too demanding physically. A lot might find it mind numbing however.

His longest training run was a bit over 10 miles-- the longest of my semi long runs. i ran 20 for a long run.

2 years later he's still running. 10k has been the longest race since then, but he runs regularly. Right now he's just over 20 for a 5k.

(he also plays baseball, basketball, and soccer as primary sports in season)
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