One of the most rewarding things as a parent is watching your kids grow up and show interest in the things they love.
What is even more rewarding is when you realize that the things they love are also the things that YOU love.
My youngest does love food but why I chose to include this particular picture is because it’s of my youngest son perusing the post-run snack table after his very first organized running event!
Earlier this year I took my oldest son to the Colour Me Rad 5k in Surrey and he absolutely loved it. The pride on his face was simply delicious. Yes, delicious. So when I found myself home with the kids while Hubs was traveling a couple weekends this summer, I was excited to take them to a few local kids races.
It’s no secret that I’ve really grown to love the 5 Peaks Trail Running events here in Vancouver but did you know that they also host two fantastic kids races at each event? A shorter, untimed 1km run for the younger kids and a timed, 3k event for the older ones. My little guys are only 3 and 4 so we chose to try out the 1k fun runs at two different 5 Peaks events this year.
At 5 Peaks Seymour, my youngest enjoyed the run (not so much the wipeout in the middle but he got over it quickly) but maybe not as much as he enjoyed the post-race food…
And at 5 Peaks Buntzen Lake, they both thought the run was amazing and thoroughly enjoyed cheering for the rest of the racers after their event was done…
It’s only been 3 running events between the two of them this summer but I feel like I’ve learned a few things from introducing my young children to the wonderful sport of running.
Here are 5 tips for your kids’ first race to help make it a success…
1. Pick an event appropriate to their age and experience level
Not all kids races are created the same! Be sure to pick something at or below their ability level to make sure you don’t overwhelm them. Chat with the race director or others who have done the event in previous years to make sure it’s appropriate and pick something with a fun twist or in a special location if you can (colour runs, neon runs, costume runs and trail runs are great for this!)
2. Pick an event you can run with them
My kids are pretty little but even older kids might feel intimidated to head out in a pack of other kids if they’ve never run a race before. You know your own kids best but picking an event where you can run along with them is a great way to get them started.
3. Teach them your pre-race and post-race routines
My boys seemed pretty proud to be invited to run one of ‘mommy’s events’ but puffed up their chests even more when I included them in a little pre and post-race routine. For breakfast we talked about making sure they ate the right foods to give them the energy they’d need and after the race I explained why and what runners eat for proper recovery. Tip: the chocolate milk and oranges were a big hit!
4. Run at their pace
If your kids are old enough you could have a lot of fun egging them on but if they’re little like mine, slow and steady is the name of the game. I let them set the pace and just trotted along beside or behind them and of course, made sure they beat mommy across the finish line.
5. Pick a race with swag
If you can, taking them to an event that has medals or swag of some sort is a great idea. It doesn’t really matter what it might be but seeing their huge smiles of pride as they receive their medal or ribbon is so worth it. My boys cherish their ribbons and have paraded them through the show-and-tell circuit at school a few times!
Above all, be sure to include them in your running community
Your kids have already shown interest in running (that’s great!) but part of having them remain interested is getting them to feel like a real part of your running community. I made sure to introduce the boys to all of my friends, race sponsors and the Race Director and everyone was always so happy to pump up the little kids. I also tried to find little ways the boys could volunteer and help out which was a big hit as well. Getting to be part of a grown-up event was a big deal to my little guys and getting to be a part of all aspects of the event meant a lot to them.
Talking to your kids about your hobbies shows them what activities are meaningful to you. Including them in your training, warm-ups, cool downs and preparations teaches them about all of the hard work that goes into something you love. But including them in the actual events so they can experience it for themselves, gives them the chance to maybe start loving it too.
Have you taken your kids to any kids races yet?