Two Ohio parents went on the defensive this week after their 6-year-old son ran a full marathon.
Ben and Kami Crawford celebrated their son Rainier’s efforts on their Instagram page, posting photos of the young boy looking happy May 1 as he completed the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.
But they also shared Rainier’s struggles during the grueling event, saying that he “was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes” around mile 20 and that after a planned refreshment table was empty, Rainier “was crying and we were moving slow.”
The Crawfords said they promised Rainier extra Pringles if he powered through. Other people saw the Crawfords’ story and expressed concern for Rainier’s health.
“A (6-year-old) who is ‘struggling physically’ does not realize they have the right to stop and should,” two-time Olympic marathon runner Kara Goucher wrote on Twitter. “I’m not questioning motivation or saying it is bad parenting. But as an Olympic athlete, I promise you this is not good for the child.”
The Crawfords said running was Rainier’s idea in the first place and that he begged to do it after seeing his older siblings do it in past years. The Crawfords have six children, and they ran the marathon as a family. They even did a “Good Morning America” interview to defend themselves.
“We really care about our kids’ emotional and physical health,” Kami Crawford said on the ABC program. “But we also care about their agency and if they want to do something, and we, you know, assess the risks and figure out if it’s OK.”
But plenty of people remained unsatisfied enough that Child Protective Services was called to the Crawford household.
The marathon technically has an 18-and-older requirement, but the Crawford children had run unauthorized and unofficially in the past. Organizer Iris Bush said, “Our requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed moving forward.”
The Crawfords shared an extensive statement Saturday night on their Instagram account, detailing their beliefs and thought process behind Rainier running the marathon.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to make running fun,” they said. “Marathons have always been an optional activity and as the kids have gotten older the training for the marathons is 100% elective.”