8 Year Old Marathoner: Too Young to Run?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

As a runner, one of my biggest dreams is to run a race with my children. Both of them love to run and my daughter, at 4, is actually quite fast, so I do expect that day to come sooner rather than later. But not before she is 14 or 15, I would guess, especially for longer races. Little bodies are just not meant to run that distance.

But one family in Indiana feels differently. Their 8-year-old just completed her first half marathon in a time some 30-year-olds would have trouble running -- two hours and 25 minutes. After completing the race, Katarina Nikolovski said she still had energy to spare, according to the local paper.

Katarina got interested in running when she saw her father participate in races, including several full marathons. Her dad said:

She may be a natural long-distance runner. The way she runs here [referring to the video clip] is about the way she runs when she plays soccer. She's not really a fast runner, but a consistent one.

I would argue that an 8-year-old ought not be running so hard at all.

There is a reason that track and field is a sport that begins in middle school at most schools. It's simply not good for little bodies to run such distances. Running shorter ones is great. Most children are indeed ready to run a 5K or a little more between the ages of 8 and 10, but that is 3.1 miles. Taking it to 13.1 miles is pushing it a bit.

Children should absolutely be encouraged to play sports. They can even run up to five miles in a typical, aggressively played, competitive soccer game, so no one would argue against fun runs or even a 5K, but 13.1 miles is taxing on even adult bodies. It's great that this girl is showing a precocious interest in running, but as someone who has run since the age of 13 and suffered greatly for it, the idea of my still-growing children attempting to bang out a semi-competitive half-marathon is not very appealing.

Obviously, children today are too sedentary and any parent who wants to get their kids out running and thinking about being active is to be commended, but there is a line. A half marathon at 8 crosses it for me.

I fully intend to run a full marathon with my daughter and son someday, but they will have to be adults before I would consider it. 

Am I being overly conservative on this?

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