I have a new favorite race, and it’s an event I can’t even technically participate in. Even though I’ll never get a PR, medal, or even a finishing time, no event has ever filled me with more pride and happiness.
I’m talking about kids’ races. As a runner, nothing excites me more than seeing my son participate in the sport I love. At the age of two, he seems to genuinely love running already. He always wants to join me on runs – not just in the stroller, he actually wants to run alongside me. So, his little face lights up when I tell him he gets to race.
Then when the actual race happens? Forget about it. I thought I got excited on race day, but kids take excitement up to a whole other level.
What to expect at kids’ races
From diaper dashes to tot trots to a competitive mile and kids’ obstacle races, there’s something for children of every age. Kids’ races are rarely standalone events, they’re typically held as part of race weekends. Some kids’ races may be right before the main event, a couple hours after the start, or even the day before, such as during packet pick-up.
The majority of kids’ races are untimed, but events for older children may be more official and even have awards. Distances offered vary a lot, too. A diaper dash for crawlers may only be 10 meters, but 8 and 9 year olds may have the opportunity to run a mile. Parents are usually encouraged to run alongside younger children.
Kids’ races vary in what’s offered just as much as adult races do. Some are no frills and free of charge – someone just shouts “go!” and the children race from one end of the parking lot to the other. While other races require registration months in advance and the child receives a personalized race bib, t-shirt, medal, on-course entertainment, and post-race refreshments – my son did a 100m dash at Disney last year and they served kid-approved grub like raisins, sliced bananas, and Clif Kid Zbars.
Where to find them
Kids’ races are popping up all over. My son recently ran a 1k kids’ run as part of a small, local 4-miler and he’s participating in a 20 meter beach dash next month during a 5k race I’m running. The easiest way to find a kids’ race is to look at the websites of events you’re running, and see if they offer a children’s event. Spartan has their own series of kids’ obstacle races, and runDisney offers kids’ events during all of their race weekends, too.
What you’ll get out of it
Even though my son loves running races, I think I get more out of the experience than he does. During that recent 1k race, I kept asking him if he wanted to take walk breaks or be carried, but he insisted on running the entire way. When he crossed the finish line, he turned to me and said, “I did it! All by myself, mommy!” I’ve never seen him more proud. Since then, I’ve tried taking a step back during the day, letting him figure challenges out on his own, and only helping him when he asks. A very important lesson learned for this mom.
Written by Jen Matz