Should A Six Year Old Run a Half Marathon

I was recently asked by the NY Daily News whether it was healthy for a six year old girl to run a half marathon.

Here is her story and my response.  What's your opinion?

6 Year Old Runs Half Marathon

EO's response:

I think we get into trouble when we try and make general claims and opinions about a specific, isolated event like this. I believe running is one of the most natural, athletic and joyful experiences we can do as humans.  Can a six year old girl run a half marathon healthy?  Yes.  Can a six year old girl run a half marathon unhealthy? Yes.  This is no different than a runner of any age, as there are many who do it very health and many who do it very unhealthy.  
Running, I believe, is a learned skill and there are certain things that go into the equation to help create a healthy runner, whether it be form and technique, strength, diet, and the actual execution of intensity or run program.
We do not know how Keelan implemented her training, but if we look at what we know about Keelan, there was a few great things she did to make this a healthy run.  She monitored how she was feeling several times throughout the race and made a personal and conscious decision based on how she was feeling to keep going.  She also stopped along the way and relished in the moment by taking pictures and truly embracing the joy of the race atmosphere and attention.  And most importantly, based on her mother's account, this seemed to be Keelan's choice to do the race and was not forced by others.  She seemed to simply want to do it because it was fun and a challenge and something she was prepared for.  This was not done to break a record.

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Comment by Larissa Uredi on October 25, 2013 at 1:52pm

I agree with you Eric for sure--if you think about it, kids run all day long (or should) at recess, when they get home, etc.  And, like the B2R book mentions, if you watch a kid run, they typically have really great form by default.  If she feels good about it, wants to do it and isn't being subjected to drastic training regimes or diet restrictions, I can't imagine that it would be a poor decision.  As always, generalizations are hard to make about what's good for a kid and what isn't.

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