Gotta’ Run: At what age can kids go running?
Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2022
As a proud granddad, I had envisioned that the new baby would be ready for her first running watch within a week or so. I got her one! And that her first steps would be followed by a desire to run. Her mom said, “What if she doesn’t want to be a runner?” She had to be kidding!!!
By about 18 months, she began to run short distances. Then very soon, her mom and I had her racing in the driveway. Little 20-30-yard sprints that began with, “Get ready, Go!” There have been a few falls, but the girl has never lost a race. She’s just about two years and three months now, and runs everywhere, in the house and outside.
The baby’s name is Monroe, but much more well known by her nickname, “the Booper.” I’ve begun to explore what the experts say about kids running and when they can safely start. One of my favorite photos ever was published in the Post a few weeks ago, showing me leading kids from age six and up in a mile run around the Granite Quarry Elementary School gym. A dozen years or so ago, all the afterschool sites partnered with the YMCA on a kids’ running program. It went on for about four years and I learned a lot while leading that program. Younger kids want to be active and its easy for them. At most of the schools, a nine-year-old could likely be the best runner in the program. Older kids, 12 and up, often struggled. It is my belief that young kids are meant to run and society changes that for most of them as they age.
Whattoexpect.com says that somewhere between 18 and 24 months old, a toddler will begin to pick up the pace from walking to running — though you can expect a few spills along the way. By the time they turn three, running should come easily. Playing games like hide and seek and Simon Says, or just chasing your toddler helps them gain confidence.
Women’s Running says, “If you watch kids on a playground, zipping across the baseball field, or just trying to catch the bus, you will notice they run with an easy, natural stride. After all, as soon as we learn to walk, we start to run. And when we do it in our youth, we usually do it for one reason: for fun. Keeping it that way is one of the biggest opportunities, but also can be one of the biggest challenges.”
Most of the Rowan’s elementary schools participate in the Daily Mile, a program that gets them out of the classroom and on the track for a mile every day. Kids get lots of the same benefits that adults do out of running, Benefits from running early include improved sleep, increased self-esteem, improved concentration and confidence, decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
The resounding medical advice says if the child is excited and interested and there are no major injuries, running at almost any age is acceptable.
Erica Gminski, youth programs director for the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) agrees that as long as running is presented as fun and not overly structured for very young children, it should be fine at any age.
Dr. Mark Halstead, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Washington University in St. Louis. “A child’s individual rate of development and desire to run matters more than his or her actual age.”
“Some kids aren’t interested in ball sports or team sports to begin with, so presenting running as an activity that they can participate in may be attractive,” says Gminski.
I had the kids carry an egg while they ran, and laughter and fun were astounding. When I had them race me as a team, they were laughing and screaming for a win. Just make it fun, and any age will enjoy it.
Winter Flight, the area’s biggest race, is just three weeks away. Check it and other events at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org .