Before we get into this, you need to know I’m not talking about something on which I lack knowledge. I actually started running as a new mom, so I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who has run for leisure with a jogger (sometimes walked with the jogger) as well as someone who runs to complete for wins and PRs. I do both, and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that there are rules of the course that you must respect when you are running with children – regardless if they are running with beside you or sitting in a jogging stroller.
A common question my athletes ask me when they are new to the sport is “what are the rules of the road?” We’ve all read articles about how you shouldn’t be upset if a runner doesn’t high-five you back, that you should understand which side of the trail to run on, that you need to understand what it means when someone says “to the left” (it means you stay right where you are – it doesn’t mean move left!). What I do not see a lot about is how to handle running with kids.
Rule #1: You need to respect time course limits. It’s non-negotiable. I always run slower with the jogger. If my stepson is running alongside me, I’m going way slower. Still, you have to respect time limits. Toting kids along with you doesn’t mean you get extra time. From the perspective of a race director in training, time limits are strategically planned for a lot of reasons: roads can’t stay closed forever, law enforcement can’t stand in one spot all day, etc. Time limits are not random or arbitrary, nor or are they a suggestion – they are almost aways steadfast.
If you don’t think you can complete the race within the current time limits, it might not be the right race for you to run with your kids.
Rule #2: Just because you start in the back-of-the-pack doesn’t mean you can let your kids zig zag across the course. This is especially true for different distances that start at or around the same time. If you’re walking a 5K and others are running a 10K, the fastest 10k runners will pass you by on their way to the finish. It’s those runners who are competing for a place and likely some form of cash prize. If you get in their way, or in the way of any runner who has set some kind of time goal, you tac seconds or minutes onto their time. At the least, you shake their mental hold on their goal. That’s pretty disrespectful.
Moral of the story: Make sure your kids understand that they need to stick close to you. It doesn’t mean they can’t run, jog, skip, and be silly – it means they need to do that within an invisibly confined area.
Rule #3: Don’t start in the front because your kids want to if you don’t plan on running fast. There’s no reason to have your toes on the start line if you aren’t competing to set an insane PR or place in the race. Again, you disrespect the rest of the people who have that goal if you get in their way, and this is one way to get in their way.
I point blank tell my kids “no.” I explain to them that there are other, professionally trained runners who are faster than us and need to be further toward the front. I also talk about training and how they can train to be that fast someday, but that it takes hard work and we need to respect that.
Rule #4: Don’t stand in the middle of the course with a child who throws him/herself on the ground and throws a tantrum. It’s dangerous for your child, which is the biggest reason not to do it. Runners have to hurry to dodge a tiny human, and if they can’t, they could fall on the child or worse – trample on the child.
I guess this just isn’t the time to reason with your kids. Pick them up and move them off the course.
During the 2015 Liberty Mile, a child kept lagging behind and screaming in tears. His mother’s response was to run ahead of him, turn around, and say “come on!” Meanwhile, we were all trying to not only dodge this three year old, but make sure everyone else did, too! We were worried he’d get run over, and a child’s safety takes priority over a PR.
Rule #5: Everyone on the course who is walking/running needs to be registered and needs to wear a bib. This one really gets me. I mean, the bibs are more than timing chips and numbers and cool things to hang up somewhere to show how awesome you are. That number also links to each runner’s registration information, including emergency contact and possibly any medical conditions. If you think that your child who is running or walking with you doesn’t need this important form of race ID, you shouldn’t be running the race.
I realize it’s another registration fee, but it’s truly for the best. God forbid something should happen to you during the race, people can easily discover who you and your child’s emergency contact is and ensure you get the help and possible medical attention you need.
Plus, your child might place! Wouldn’t it be really cool if your child won a place in the 10 and under age group? It won’t happen unless your mini is following the rules by wearing a race issued bib.
My kids love the bibs. They actually get upset when kids runs don’t have them.
I don’t want to sound harsh, but these kinds of rules need to be followed so everyone can enjoy the race. All of the course rules are there for a reason, and the race runs smoothest when they’re followed. I give moms who race with kids a lot of kudos. I do it sometimes and it’s no easy feat! I mean…there I go, down the street, playing Thomas the Train songs on Spotify and pulling over because she wants a different flavor fruit snacks….
Really, I high five you. And to all of you who respect the rules of the road, I high five you twice :-).