Parents with children sport running together through forest

How to start running with your kids

Running is an activity the whole family can get in on. One mom shares her tips on how to get started.

Seanna Robinson has been a serious runner for more than 25 years: She has several marathons under her belt and trained track athletes at the University of Toronto. So it’s no surprise she introduced to her kids, Hugo and Penny, to the sport at a young age. “I really believe that all kids are naturally inclined to run and that it keeps them healthy and happy,” says Seanna.

The introduction started when the kids were toddlers, with trips to the park or an indoor play centre. Seanna occasionally created obstacle courses and played tag and chase to keep them interested. At the same time, Hugo and Penny saw Mom head off for her daily run and cheered her on at races. “They see running as a positive thing that makes Mommy happy.”

When Hugo and Penny were younger , Seanna registered for a 10-km run at the Toronto Zoo. There was a 1-km fun run scheduled directly afterward and the kids were keen to give it a try. “We all ran together and it was well organized and the atmosphere was inclusive and celebratory. Plus, they got to visit the Zoo and they got ribbons and T-shirts — my son’s became one of the four T-shirts in his acceptable wardrobe rotation!”

Here are Seanna’s tips to make your family’s first fun run a great one:

  • Be spectators first

    Take kids to a run so they know what to expect. “Post-race experiences are very celebratory with medals and lots of food and juice,” says Robinson. “Letting them participate in that will help create a positive association.”

  • Choose the run wisely
    Most “regular” runs offer a kids’ or fun run, but they’re not all are created equal. While the Zoo Run was a success, the next one Seanna’s family tried was poorly organized and didn’t allow enough time for her to reach her kids and husband when her run finished. Both children ended the race in tears. Make sure you’re clear on the start times, registration procedures and other details. Talk to other running families about their favourite runs.

  • Heed the weather
    Seasoned runners will push through rain, wind and cold, but that’s too much to ask of kids, says Seanna. Best to wait for a better day.

  • Build in time
    Make sure you get to the race site with enough time to warm up and get organized. Check into parking beforehand.

  • Buddy up
    Have another adult on the sidelines in case one of your junior runners drops out.

  • Talk it up
    Tell the kids what to expect, how long it will take, how many people will be there and what the start line and finish line will be like.

  • Comfort is key
    Kids don’t need spandex and moisture-wicking fabric — just comfortable clothing that lets them move. You don’t need to break the bank on running shoes, but make sure they fit well and offer support. Don’t forget sunscreen. Make it waterproof since they will probably sweat.

  • Keep them hydrated
    Have lots of water on hand — no need for juice or sports drinks.

  • Forget about the finish line
    Don’t push. If your child backs out on race day or only makes it halfway through, that’s OK, says Robinson. “Your goal should be to leave them with a positive experience.”

 

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