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Posted on Jun 01,2017

Patrick Mularoni, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Sports Medicine Division

More kids today are participating in marathons, including 5K and 10K races. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Sports Medicine Division at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital talks about the benefits of running for kids and tips to prepare children for races.

What are the benefits of choosing running or cross country as a sport for your child?

Running as a sport continues to grow in the United States. One of the biggest reasons is because you don’t need specialized equipment or coaches and it is a sport that an entire family can do together. It is one of the only sports where you’ll see grandparents competing right alongside their grandchildren. Even if you’re not competing or running organized races, the thought of a family going out for a run together, especially when they’re training for one of these events is a great thing. It gets the family doing an activity that is not only good for them but a great way to connect with your kids and your community without being distracted by phones and electronics.

What distance is too far for a child to run in a marathon?

If we look at other countries like Kenya you’ll find that many school-age children run between 4 and 8 miles a day to get back and forth to school. Now those kids have been distance running since early youth so this is something that they build up to and I think that this is the big point. It’s never a good idea to put kids in a position to fail. They need to train and build up to running longer distances just like adults would. So I would not suggest putting a child who hasn’t been running in a 5K or 10K unless you are planning on going out with them and running a bit and walking a bit. The best thing is to plan ahead and train with your child. Use the internet to find a race that is a few weeks out so that you can train with your child and have a goal that is set and scheduled or start with a shorter race.

Many adults who run may complain of knee, back or foot pain. Are kids susceptible to the same injuries?

This is a case where children typically do much better than adults. The first thing is that most kids aren’t carrying around the weight of their adult counterparts so they are not placing that burden on their joints. The second is that most children don’t have previous injuries to their joints that may have caused bad running habits and many running injuries come from poor mechanics. If a child starts to run at a young age they have the opportunity to develop good mechanics from the start without having to compensate for previous injuries like many adults have to. Some tips include:

  • Set a goal for a race in the future with adequate time to train.
  • Build up to a distance making slow increases in distance.
  • Make sure your children are in proper running shoes.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.


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