How young is too young?

November 5, 2012

You know you got a good workout in when your legs are glistening from sweat.

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Hard to capture the grossness with a my iPhone and don’t worry Billy, I was sitting on a towel. Brooke does have the cutest feet ever.

So, this morning Brooke decided to rebel against day light savings and be awake for the day at 5 a.m.  It is so hard to be frustrated with her not sleeping in when she has a face like this:

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 By 7:30 she started snoozing so I jumped on the treadmill.  This is my PEAK time for running and for the last few weeks I have been working out after 10 so it felt really good to start so early.  I started at 7.5 mph and then increased up .1 every mile until she woke up.  Girl let me get in10 miles with an overall pace of 7:30.  I definitely would have stopped immediately if my back started hurting but everything felt great so I went for it.   I really think that it takes at least 2 weeks to start loosing any endurance (I wasn’t running for about 12 days).

Anyone read THIS article about young runners?  The article is called ‘Too Fast, Too Soon? Young Endurance Runners Draw Cheers and Concerns.’ 

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(Source)

These two sisters are crazy fast trail-runners and the older one has been called the ’12-year-old trail running phenom.’  Kaytlynn is 12 and Heather is 10.

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A little bit about how they started (Rodney is their father):

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The girls are from Texas and just recently competed in the Natuional Championship Trail Run near the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  It is a 1/2 marathon course but the elevation on the course goes clear up to 7,300 feet as they run through the mountains.  The girls LOVE to run and Kaytlynn says, “It makes a purpose in my life.”  They also are very competitive in triathlons too. 

A little bit from the trail race in Utah:

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In this race the favorite runner, Claudio Spooner, didn’t even beat Kaytlynn and only some of the men passed her.  

The girls don’t train that much during the week but always compete on the weekends in one or two events.  They have a treadmill in the family room and love all outdoor activities.  The article states, “The origin of the girls’ running prowess is portrayed as a genetic mystery.”  Their doctor said, “You have to evaluate every case one by one, but these girls are monitored for injuries, and their parents watch their nutrition.  Running has no more risks for them than anyone else.”

The article also talked about how 500 runners under the age of 18 finished the LA Marathon last year and the youngest of those 500 runners was 9 years old.

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PLEASE check out Lora’s Virtual Race for Hurricane Sandy Recovery HERE!!!

Ellen is doing her THIRD Ironman in two weeks.  She is racing to raise money for First Descents (helps young cancer fighters and survivors) so please check out her website HERE!!

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What do you think?  How young is too young to be competing in these endurance events?  How old would you let your own kids start doing endurance events?  

-I am totally torn.  I feel like the girls really love it, they are extremely talented and all of their doctors have been supportive of their running so it could be okay but at the same time I wouldn’t let Brooke at that age because I think it is way too much on their little growing bodies. 

Brandy November 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Oh my, they are so young! I know my daughter is 5 and we have let her run a couple of miles and she’s itching to do a 5k which we will train her for, but I couldn’t imagine her running a half or a full marathon! But, I’m sure they are being watched and really, is it any different that hours of gymtime for gymnastics and such? I would love to see them standing next to a huge 6 foot 7 guy and then beat him. :)

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Sarah November 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

This is one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever heard. I feel like it is okay if these girls truly love it, but it’s hard to know if they’re doing it because their father is making them or if it’s something they really are passionate about. And they haven’t been alive for long enough to go out and try different things, so this is definitely a tough one to answer. I say go for it, though! Until someone proves that they’re damaging their bodies, let them go and kick all of our butts into harder training so we don’t lose to young kids!!
P.s- LOVE Brooke. she’s going to be the next 10 year old running marathons, I can feel it ;)

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Sarah November 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Interesting article. I agree if the girsl love it, great, but I can’t imagine running at a young age being great for them. I think as the doctor says, this decision has to be made on an individual basis.

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Heather November 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Kids that age running those distances totally freak me out. I just cannot believe that it’s good for their bones – which are still growing! – to endure that type of activity. Running can be HARD on a body. Additionally, to have them competing EVERY weekend, as stated in the article?? Crazy. A little diversity wouldn’t hurt.

The kids that run LA Marathon typically do so through a variety of programs that train them over a length of time, and the programs are often designed to provide an activity for potentially at-risk kids, who don’t have access to activities otherwise. A friend of mine volunteers with one of these groups, and they train the kids to run/walk, how to hydrate, how to fuel, etc. In a circumstance like this, I don’t have as much of an issue as I do with the other kids competing constantly.

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Nicole@TheKidlessKronicles November 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm

As long as the girls are having fun, go for it. With the supervision of their pediatrician. But doesn’t anyone think that the father may be an issue? He seems to be putting WAY too much pressure on her, telling her to start in the front, don’t get caught in the back. Let the girls run for fun if they want. I wouldn’t be pushing the results at that age.

The Kidless Kronicles

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XLMIC November 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

It raises some concerns for me, but I am not their parent. Sounds like the parents are closely watching for anything negative to crop up…but who knows what sort of long-term/developmental issues this can bring about? Only time will tell. Seems to me like they could just be running and not racing. I think the dad might dig the attention. But again, I have no real idea. I hope the girls get to keep it fun…and as soon as it stops being fun, they are allowed to back off.

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Annette@FitnessPerks November 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Yay for getting in some good miles! I bet you loved that :)

I think that if they’re being monitored very closely than it’s probably okay, but the second it doesn’t become fun for them, they should stop–because that could lead to serious issues later on. I’ve seen it in ballerinas, actually.

Very interesting post!

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Megan@ The Running Doc November 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Wow, that’s crazy! I know the article says they’ve been checked out by doctors and everything is fine, but I don’t think I’d let my kids run such long races at such a young age. Their bones and joints are not fully developed and their growth plates have not yet fused. I just can’t imagine that the pounding their hips, knees, and ankles are taking is going to leave them feeling very good 30 or 40 years from now.

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Brittany @Berries and Barbells November 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

This is an interesting topic. I think it is great to get your kids excited about some sort of physical activity at an early age. It promotes an active and healthy lifestyle but I think there is a fine line. My son is 3 and he runs a lot but always for fun. He is usually chasing a ball or running after his Daddy. I would like to encourage him to keep being active but let him decide when he’s had enough.

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Nicole@TheKidlessKronicles November 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I just read the full text of the article from the New York Times and the father is DEFINITELY an issue. Lied about her age to get her entered in a marathon and said she has “too much talent to quit”. So even if she wanted to quit running, he wouldn’t let her. WRONG. Affectionate needling, really? Awful.

The Kidless Kronicles

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Nicole November 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Are they to young? what is to young? .. right? Who knows. I mean really. We all know kids and we know how kids are….they simply are not going to do something they do not want to do. You can only “force” a child so much before they’re like “kiss my butt I ain’t doing it.” :) If these girls weren’t into it….they wouldn’t win so many. My biggest example of this is my own daughter. She’s 5. She began walking at 9 months old. Heck, forget that…at 3 months old she was throwing an all out tantrum to push herself off our laps and down onto the floor. She couldn’t go anywhere at all, but she wanted to be down there on her own. She would also try to get us to let her go in the pool…by 2 she was swimming on her own. So, now, we hit the 9 month mark, where she just takes off walking everywhere and at 12 months, climbing and jumping on everything! I stuck her in Gymnastics. She is age 5, she takes Ballet/Tap/Jazz, Karate (or as she says Kryate) and Gymnastics. She is on the dance team and practices her performances over and over again at home. She is an orange belt at Karate (and was a pink power ranger samurai for halloween!) and She is a level 4 gymnast on the Jr. Gymnastics Team. Why? why would I put her in all this. You would think I’m crazy if I said it was because she asked to. :) But the simple answer is…it’s because she asked to. I have a standing rule in my home..you wanna try it? go for it! you only live once, and how else you gonna know what you like? Our first step was gymnastics. That was simply for pure energy release and fun. But this child has totally fell in love with it. She is in the gym from 3:30 to 5pm 3 days a week. and oh my gosh if she has to miss a day…you better be prepared for her demise, because thats how she acts, like she is going to die if she is not at that gym. Ballet was because her big sister is in Ballet, she saw her dancing at practice, saw the costumes and stage and that was it…she was hooked. Karate is because her life long dream is to grow up and be a super ninja and in order to be a super ninja…you have to learn Kryate. She does everything with no limits, no holds barred, she throws herself into it fully and she either loves it, or she hates it. (Like, softball..tried that this past year, she just did not enjoy it) And yes..it truly is all her doing. I simply just stand there as her support. These were her words at the age of 3: “Mommy, I’m in gymnastics and, I’m pretty good. I’m in ballet, and I’m pretty good at that too.”

My response: “yes P, you do a wonderful job honey, mommy is very proud of her little gymnast dancer.”

Her reply: “Yeah, well, when I grow up, I want to be a Ninja, so, we need to sign me up for Kryate, so then, I can be a super Ninja!”

I thought..eh, she’s 5….they all want to be Ninjas. But it would seem ours is taking this very seriously.

So again..really? how young is to young when someone’s mind is so clearly made up?

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RochelleT November 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I agree with you completely! Kids will be kids. My 4 year old enjoys running with me, while my 9 year old doesn’t. Obviously, my 4 year old will continue to run (within moderation), and my 9 year old will continue Tae Kwon Do, which she enjoys and excels in. I’m not about to tell my energetic 4 year old that she can’t run, skip, play, etc. and I’m not going to pull my 9 year old out of what she loves.

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Denise November 6, 2012 at 7:20 am

I also agree, I have a daughter like that. She is only doing cheerleading but we are NOT a cheer family. I have never been a cheerleader but she tried it and fell in love….she will FREAK out if she misses a practice. She puts in all the work, wants to go to extra practices to get her tumbling….she is 13 now and has mellowed a bit in her temper tantrums if she has to miss but is still just as passionate about it. It is everything she does and thinks about. Of course this is because this is her personality, she is the same way with her school work and wants to go to Stanford someday and has since she was in the 5th grade. She dreams big and pushes herself…..and I can say we for sure push are kids to do their best at whatever they do but this is 100% her. We don’t have to push at all so I know there are kids out there that are like your daughter. Good luck to her in whatever she lands on, sounds like she has a great personality and a bright future.

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Jessica@SweatIsMySanity November 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I feel like it’s too much on their little growing bodies too. I would make them wait a bit. :) Have a fab night.

Check out today’s Motivate Me Monday guest…one of my favorites so far!!
http://www.sweatismysanity.com/2012/11/motivate-me-monday-dr-sarahs-story.html

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GreenGirlRunning November 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm

My gut tells me no… I would not let my kids run that far. I would feel like the most horrible person on earth if my child sustained an injury or did permanent damage to his/her body. My 8.5 yr old son just ran his first 5k and I ran it with him. We took lots of walk breaks and I really encouraged him to listen to his body, and had him set the pace. I can’t imagine letting him run farther than that until he’s older. It is interesting, though, that this family is being criticized when other sports have very young children training and competing. Female gymnasts, in particular, often have amenorrhea, and stunted development. Another sport I wouldn’t feel comfortable having my children become competitve in. I guess only time will tell for those 2 running girls.

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Becky November 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I think they’re amazing and their parents have taken them to several doctors who have all signed off on it! I think that’s great. My parents entered me in all kinds of 5ks and 10ks when I was even younger than them, just as an activity that we could do together. It made me appreciate exercise and motivation. If the love it, good for them! Kid will tire themselves out one way or another, right?

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runningwithscissors November 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I agree with the fact that if the girls didn’t want to run and they didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, then they just plain would not run. Or they would run but not perform the way that they do in races. I also agree that for the “normal” young girl this might be too much but there are exceptions to everything. In my opinion, as long as they aren’t having injury issues and they are enjoying it….keep on running.

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Wendy November 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Yeah, that definitely makes me a little uncomfortable, in the same way that I don’t like competitive gymnastics for young girls…it’s a lot of pressure on growing bodies and who knows what the long-term effects may be. It’s especially tricky because issues of weight and body type can get involved, which can really mess with a girl’s mind, especially at a time when their bodies are doing a lot of changing and developing. My 12-year-old daughter and I are working toward doing a Disney 5k, but we’re doing it really casually, just for something fun and different to do together…going out for a run gives us some mom-daughter time, and our goal is just to have fun, wear cute costumes, and finish. :)

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Corey November 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I think there are people who have a natural aptitude for running, just like there are those with phenomenal artistic skill, mathematical ability, or musical talent. However, I’m glad that they are being monitored so closely–I’d hate for them to be risking overuse or overtraining consequences like soft-tissue injuries, amenorrhea, or stress fractures.

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Hollie November 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I think that they are young yes. But pushing the limits with a marathon at that age is pretty dangerous…I mean if they are that good when young, wouldn’t they only get better as they are older? I don’t know-they aren’t being forced and as long as they are enjoying it…

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Cait the Arty Runnerchick November 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm

i read that article and it makes me really sad for those girls. i sort of take the whole age-group runners thing on a case by case basis, and here i think it’s pretty clear the dad is one of ‘those’ guys who is pushing the girls too hard. i agree that it seems the girls DO have a passion for the sport, but i don’t think they need to be going that far. a marathon that young is just too young.
the point that really made me sad was when the father was berating the elder one for not running hard enough after that half. brining up how people run on broken toes and such. that just shows he’s taking things to an unhealthy level, but just in my opinion. i’m all for kids loving running, but there needs to be a balance, and it’s a parent’s duties to help provide that balance, not riding the kids to do more and train harder.

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Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale November 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I think that 10 might be a little young, but building up mileage starting at 12 … I can see that.
At the same time, when you think about it, there are gymnasts and swimmers who train CRAZY amounts in their younger years!! I don’t see why running should be different in that regard.
If their doctors — who know their entire history — are okay with them continuing, and the girls are HAPPY(!!) I don’t think that ANYONE else should have the right to say things otherwise.
I just hope for two things (1) training so hard so early doesn’t lead to permanent injury or an eating disorder or the female athlete triad, and that (2) the love of running stays with them for their whole lives and they don’t burn out too early.
I’m really, really glad your back held out, Janae!! You’ll be back in full swing in no time! See — resting pays of in the end! Lesson learned the hard way on my part, never again will I train on an injury.

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michelle kim November 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I guess a fun run for the kids would seem okay, but anything above 5K seems like a lot before puberty (of course, I can’t judge other parents or kids especially if the kids LOVE to run). For some reason, I feel like racing intensely or doing anything TOO intensely will stunt their growth (probably not founded on anything true… I just think that way).

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RunInBoise November 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I dont see what is wrong with letting kids run. People put their kids in hours of dance, gymnastics, martial arts, ect each week. The BFs daughter does dance team in the morning before school and after school is 3+ hours a day of dance that she has been involved in for about 10 years. Plus the weekends involve performing at games and other dance events. She does what she wants to do and gets straight A’s. Better then letting the kids sit in front of a tv for hours a day. Congrats on that awesome TM run!

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Heather@Just a Colorado Gal November 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Ooph, I just can’t jump on board with that one! I get that they love it and all, but kids also love chocolate for every meal– doesn’t mean it’s good for them! I just feel like running is a lot of pounding on still-developing joints and bones. At age 10, I think a 5-10k is the max.

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penny@herworldlypleasures November 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I really can’t put my finger on this one. I guess it’s ok if the girls love doing it but hopefully they will explore other hobbies as well because I read that these girls don’t have many friends which is quite sad. Having said that, as long as they are happy and healthy which is the most important. If they are my kids, I would rather that they go hard out running than to run riots at home because of all those extra energy!

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Karen @ Runner Girl Eats November 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

If there doctors are saying that it is fine and the girls enjoy it, I think, sure why not. But it seems like a lot for such young bodies. Also, arent there age requirements for long races? I have never seen such a young person at a long race and feel like there is a reason for that. Also, endurance running takes a lot of energy and I find it hard to believe that these young girls want to run as much as they do…I think the parents may be pushing this issue…Ultimately I think they should wait until they are older.

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Carolyn November 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm

My little brother ran the St George Marathon when he was 10. He is now 19 and is a good 5 inches shorter than my dad and other brothers. Maybe it’s just some sort of genetic fluke, but it’s more likely that all that running early on stunted his growth. As far as those girls go, who knows what sort of pressure is being out on them by weird controlling parents who are living their fantasies through their little girls. Who knows though?

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Katie @ Peace Love & Oats November 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I guess if they have their doctor’s approval it seems fine, but I’d be more concerned for how it will affect them when they should be hitting puberty. It will be interesting to follow these girls!

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Breanna November 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I went to the full article and on the side it has a photo with a caption that says: “Heather was comforted by her father after a duathlon in Houston. Heather, a fifth grader, sometimes cries when people pass her.”

Cries when people pass her?! That troubles me. I see no issue with kids running for fun but the fact that tears are falling and they are that emotionally invested doesn’t resonate well with me. That makes me think there’s more to this situation. Even as an adult who enjoys racing, it’s JUST a race. It also makes me a little uneasy these girls are doing such long distances. For some reason that doesn’t seem right to me. It’s a fine line to walk, and I won’t tell others what choices to make in their lives, but for me personally I would only let my kids do a 5k distance until they reached at least 16 years old.

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Janee November 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Do you think you can train for a marathon in 3 months? I just got into the Ogden marathon (next May) and it will be my first. I also just found out I have a stress fracture in my femur so I can’t run for the next 8-12 weeks until it heals. That will only leave me 3 months to train. Plus who knows if I can keep up my endurance over these next few months doing spin and pool running. Any advice?

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Anne November 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I agree that if the girls love what they do, they should be able to do it. That being said, can they TRULY not get a great thrill from long, but not endurance race distances at least until their frames mature a little more?
It would be tragic to have to cut short their career of doing what they love because they pushed it too far too young.

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Kate @ Run with Kate November 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Wow! At first, I was thinking they’re too young. But it seems like they truly love the sport and they have a gift. I would say, let them run! They’re healthy, according to their doctors. As long as their hearts are in it, they should run. If it starts to get boring or tiresome, I hope their parents let them stop.

Question: Is that new brooks jacket you got (the purple one) water-proof? I am looking for a waterproof running jacket for when I visit Portland and it will most likely rain every single day.

Thanks!!

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Amanda November 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I read that article too and was a little perturbed. Not necessarily because of their age because their doctors seem to say it’s okay and they get checked out a lot. However, I was concerned because their dad seemed really pushy and kind of mean when they don’t do well. These are kids, after all, not professional athletes! No need to be mean to them when they don’t live up to your crazy expectations (and from what I gather, dad is not a runner anyway).

I’m so glad you posted this because I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts!

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Elizabeth November 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm

ok HR! You must convince people to vote tomorrow and vote for our man k? e

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Lora @ Crazy Running Girl November 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Thanks for sharing the Virtual Race!! :)

Hmm this is REALLY tough. On one hand I can see where people are coming from, but if the girls truly love it and they are doing it for themselves (not doing it because they think it makes their Dad happy, etc.) then I don’t see why not. However, I do agree it could have physical impact to their growing bodies…

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Liz @ Tip Top Shape November 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I think as long as they love it and their parents are monitoring them to make sure they don’t get injured, then it’s fine. I think it’s something reasonable minds could differ about, though.

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Tiffany November 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm

That is so controversial; the parents sound like they are covering their bases with checking with doctors and whatnot, but I don’t think I would be doing that with my own kids (but I don’t have any yet). I don’t want to judge other people’s parenting so I won’t, but my kids would have to be really passionate and persuasive for me to let them build their mileage so high before puberty. The girls seem very talented and I wish them well.

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alex m November 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I would be hesitant about pushing any sort of endurance sport before onset of puberty. As an adult, you can screw up your cycle by training too much so I’d be extra careful monitoring how much they train before they get to that point. Other than that, if the kid likes something I’d let that lead what they participate in but leave it up to the adults (doctors, parents, coaches, etc.) to decide how much is too much for their developing bodies.

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AmyD November 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm

The article was a little misleading. I just looked up the results and she came in #111 in 2:08. Absolutely a great run, but the article made it sound like she was at the top. I don’t know how i feel about this issue. If there is no outside pressure and they just love to run, I would hate for that to be taken from them. However, if their parents are in anyway pressuring them, I say let them grow up and have a little more fun. :)

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Janae November 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm

That is crazy… It made it sound like she came in as one of the top runners. Hmmm?

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Karla @ myhighonlife November 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Yikes that is really tough. If the girls love it-they should do it. That being said they should see doctors frequently to see if it will hinder their growth and bones. If it doesnt–then kudos to them.

Your girl Brooke is so precious!

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Jade November 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Oh, they are so young! I hope they are enjoying it, but this isn’t something I would encourage my little ones to do. I don’t really have a good reason…just doesn’t seem great to me. I would be thrilled if my kids wanted to run…just shorter distances.

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Kathee November 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm

As long as the parents aren’t MAKING them do it, then let them do it. They will either get over it or keep loving it. I have been beat by a 10 year old in my first 10K. It’s almost like she was just jogging over the the neighbors house…irritating.

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Chelsea @ GlitterAndSweat November 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm

nominated you for the inspiring blogger award!!!

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Ali Mc November 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm

At first I thought that was too young and crazy, but after reading your post and the article I think it’s entirely subjective. It seems like the parents are responsible and if there’s no harm and the children LOVE to do it, I don’t see how that’s hurting anyone.

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Melissa November 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm

My son is 12 and has just really gotten into running this past year. While it makes my mama’s heart happy that he’s learning to joy of running, as a parent (especially one with a strong competitive streak) I have to make sure that I’m not living out my desires through my son and pushing him to do more than he wants/is able to do. He has a goal of doing a half marathon next summer with his dad. The hubster is a track and cross-country coach, so we all geek out with all things running. I’m a little leary of him putting in that kind of mileage, but right now he can easily put in 5-8 miles a day and seems no worse for the wear. While he’s no where near as fast as those girls, he loves running and it has really built up his confidence in himself this past year. It’s a delight to see. So there are definitely benefits to it, but you have to be careful how you parent it and let them be them!

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Corey @ When We Wander November 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm

What a great article! I can’t help but be concerned that running that much mileage might cause problems later on — can their bones handle that? And will all this mileage make them more susceptible to injuries later on?

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Gretchen November 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I think you can find doctors to back up whatever you want – just like statistics. My 13 year old son runs cross country and really wanted to run a half marathon last year. We went against the advice of his coaches and let him do it. He ran it really slow and easy and had a good time, but he kind of burned himself out and had to work really hard to get some of his speed back for cross country this fall. One of his coaches summed it up pretty well – you can race endurance distances for the rest of your life – you only have so many years of speed in you. If you start racing the endurance distances at a young age you will sacrifice that speed in the long run. My husband and I both run marathons and our son really wants to as well but after his half marathon experience we told him he’s going to have to wait until he’s 18. It’ll be interesting to see if these girls are still running in 5 years.

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Cecilia November 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm

My almost 4 year old twins are totally interested in my running and say they want to run with me (um not yet darling daughters). However, I would be totally cautious of such extreme running events. Who knows what kind of toll it will take on their little bodies! But I’m also super amazed and totally jealous!

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Anon November 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I started running competitively when I was 5 and I’m guessing my longest training runs at 12 were in the 8-9 mile range. I never had bad injuries and seem to be no worse for wear. What scares me about this article is the races the girls are entering – super long intense endurance races – when they could just be on an AAU cross-country team if they like running through the woods.

I could be way off but it seems like the Dad is choosing these extreme races to get the girls and himself attention. Notice in the article they say the oldest girl got 6th in a triathlon against her peers – while these girls are fast, they are by no means the best for their age. I looked up the oldest girls 5k time and its 20:52 – impressive yes, but she would at best be in the middle of a pack in a race against her peers at nationals or regionals. Which is still amazing, but not going to get her an article in the NYT.

Also they don’t train?! And only race?! That is a recipe for disaster. I’m fine with these girls running – but get them a proper coach, training program and a team.

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Meredith November 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Im not a doctor so I won’t speak to anything medically. I think what bothers me is how little those girls are wearing. Too young for just a sports bra. It can’t be that hot. Wear a shirt!

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Allison R. November 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I actually know the Welch girl’s family. Their aunt was my soccer coach all throughout high school. This is the type of family that will support their children in everything and anything they choose to do. They want their kids to be the best of the best ( but who doesn’t??) , so they are giving them the essentials to just that. The girls want to run, so let them. They are clearly making sure they stay healthy and giving them the knowledge they need to excel.

Janea, thank you for this awesome blog! I don’t comment often, but I definitely read everyday!

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Janae November 5, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Hey Allison! Thank you so much for telling us about the family! That is really cool and I’m glad to hear how great of a family they are!

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Allison R. November 6, 2012 at 4:53 am

Ooppps…I just noticed I spelled your name wrong.

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Ashley G November 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I’m all for those girls running if they love it and they visit the doctor regularly, but I was extremely disturbed by the “stage mom” presence of their dad. I think he pushes them too hard, and I think down the line that’s going to cultivate some sort of trouble in their relationship. Use the tennis world as an example– the Williams sisters, Steffi Graf, Jennifer Capriati– they were all coached by their dads and ended up having extremely tumultuous relationships with them. It’s just no good.

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Khushboo November 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm

As long as they go for regular check ups and their health is in tact, I think it’s great!

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Kayla @ Keep Moving Forward November 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm

They are talented and they do enjoy it – but wait until they are grown a little more to actually put them in anything longer than a 3k or 5k.. thats my thought.

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Gracie (Complicated Day) November 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I was cool with it until I read some of the quotes from their dad. Pushy and annoying little guy!

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Life's a Bowl November 6, 2012 at 2:14 am

W.O.W. I’m not sure how I feel, ha! Like you I’m totally torn… I played competitive basketball and lacrosse starting in elementary school through high school so I definitely understand that feeling of loving sports at a young age, but I don’t know about running those long distances :S

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mary @ minutes per mile November 6, 2012 at 3:12 am

wow, what an interesting article. i love the dad’s quote about them being endurance freaks, haha. i gues if the doctors say its okay and they like doing it, why not?

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Katie November 6, 2012 at 4:44 am

Hi Janae! What an interesting article. I think as long as their health is monitored and it is something that continue to enjoy, then there isn’t anything wrong with it. I’m not sure about the half marathon and marathon distances though. That does seem a little extreme.

Also, I have a question for you! Are you still breastfeeding? I’m asking because I’m 8 weeks post partum and getting back into running longer distances (up to 8 miles right now), and at the end of these ‘long runs’ I am having issues with having really heavy, uncomfortable boobs. I was wondering if you (or any of your readers) have dealt with that and have any suggestions for how to deal. I always feed him and/or pump right before I leave, but as my runs get longer I know it will only get worse. It’s not fun and I’m not sure how I’m going to train for a marathon in February with these things!! :)

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jan November 6, 2012 at 4:46 am

No way. My 8-year-old son loves to run and begs to do every race we do. His dad is an Xterra triathlete and he begs to do one. We don’t let him. We let him race at most one 5k a month (he can run almost as fast as I can). His bones are growing. He has plenty of time to race in another 5-6 years. I feel in high school he can torment his body however he wants. For right now, he’s on a swim team, which to me is a very safe (and healthy) activity for kids. He’s done a few kids’ triathlons, but those were super short–50 swim, 2 mile bike, 400 run.

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Kari @ Running Ricig November 6, 2012 at 4:53 am

I’m torn, too. My neighbor said that when he was a kid he’d go out and just see how far he could run. He’d run his age on most of his birthdays and he seems fine to me. I feel like with the race it’s just so public and, in general, endurance races can be dangerous for anyone and kids just seem like they need protecting. Who knows. I’m glad I’m not a decision maker for something like that.

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Samantha @ 24 to 30 November 6, 2012 at 5:07 am

I’m also torn. I think that’s an amazing story, and it’s awesome that they are running distances and so active when a lot of other stories I read about kids are about childhood obesity, too much time spent playing video games, etc. Also…it this really more extreme than other sports? My sons are 13 and 15 and both play basketball. Right now the season is getting ready to start and they are practicing for 2 to 3 hours a day. Now, they aren’t running that entire time, but it’s still a lot of hard physical work, and that’s pretty common, at least in our area. I guess if the kids love it and aren’t being pushed into it, and they are under medical supervision, then it’s ok?

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Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy November 6, 2012 at 7:54 am

I don’t know how I feel about those girls running so young. If they enjoy it, then it’s good, but I hope that they’re not being pressured too much by their parents — if that’s the case, eventually they’ll get burnt out. I’m kind of surprised that they have been allowed to enter all of those races. The half marathon that I ran last weekend had a minimum age requirement of 15, I believe, and the full marathon’s age requirement was 18.

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Lizzy November 6, 2012 at 8:32 am

I definitely support these little girls, it sounds like they love it!
Starting running so early might burn them out, or maybe not…
I started competitively swimming when I was 7-yrs old, and started doing double-days when I was 13-yrs old (waking up at 4am 3x a week)…and all that didn’t burn me out, I’m actually becoming crazier!?! :)
love you lady!!
xoxo!

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Rebecca Heiman November 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

I’d be willing to bet that the future gold medalists in Kenya start running those distances at that age. Americans are lazy and completely underestimate how much physical activity kids should have. I say let them flourish in their natural talent. And how many other kids are there who could be as good who are just stunted by their parents’ expectations? I don’t think they are doing the opposite of stunting these girls. By the way, I started as a distance runner at age 12 and I am 5’10″.

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Becca November 6, 2012 at 9:24 am

I live in Houston and see these gals at all of the races. Maybe it’s just from being a burned out past swimmer, but it always makes me nervous when kiddos push themselves so much early on. Maybe I’m just unconsiously jealous though…who knows?!:) They are fun to watch compete!!

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Whitney November 6, 2012 at 9:48 am

It is hard to say when I don’t have kids myself, but I kind of feel like if all has been checked out by a doctor and both girls just love it, then let them run. I would hate to be the parent that hindered them from persuing their dream or even love of running just because…. but still it makes me worry how their bodies (joints, knees, etc) will be when they are in their 20s or 30s.

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Kay November 6, 2012 at 10:30 am

WOW they are young! Since I’m not a parent I can’t really speak to how I’d feel, but I do hope that they don’t sustain any injuries or long-term issues with their bodies later on in life!

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Katie @ running4cupcakes November 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

Gosh what an interesting story. I too am torn. I like that they are doing something they love but I worry about their growing bodies and the stress these races might have on them!

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Crystal from Houston November 6, 2012 at 11:46 am

I actually did a triathlon this summer that Katlynn was in. I was envious of her kick butt bike! I don’t personally have an objection to a 12 year old doing the half distance, but I can’t say I would encourage my child to do a full at that age. There are plenty of races that won’t allow kids under the age of 16 to even do the full. At the end of the day, if they are begging to do it, its not the end of the world. I just hope their parents aren’t pushing.

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christa November 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm

i race around houston (running and tris) and the girls are ALWAYS at the events. we call them the Wonder Twins (so it’s funny that they have the same birthday!). i can’t believe kaytlynn ran the houston marathon. i see nothing wrong with sprint tris, 5ks, 10ks, but a full marathon? what’s next, an ironman? yikes!
their dad is always their hovering around them, giving them pep talks. he seems a little intense but frankly they look like they love it, so what’s wrong with pushing their talent?
recently there was an aqua-run (bike portion was cancelled due to debris from a storm) and i was surprised that heather was competing – the swim distance is almost a mile. no matter, she passed me on the run!
they look like sweet and talented girls, hope they don’t burn out.

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Kristen@two little runners November 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Too young to be running long races? I don’t know. Too young to be wearing sports bra only? YES!

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Kelly Jo November 7, 2012 at 7:04 am

I think that is too young as well!!! My son is 8 and he has ran 3 5ks, but that is a little different. 3.1 miles versus 13.1 and 26.2. I am very proud for the girls, but I think it is too hard on the babies’ bodies.

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Corey November 7, 2012 at 7:31 am

This girl actually came sprinting past me in the finish chute during the Houston Marathon last January! She was SO TINY. My parents didn’t even see me finish because the whole crowd was going crazy for her when she finished.

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Sandra November 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm

This is an interesting topic, but it is also a personal one. My son, who is now 6 years old, begged me to let him run with me when he was 4. I figured that I could just let him run until he asked to stop. He has suffered from allergies and asthma since before he was 2, so I figured it wouldn’t last long. Well, he didn’t ask to stop until we ran 1.25 miles. So, every couple of days I take him out on a 1-2 mile run.

He has now completed three 5K races and a handful of 1-2 mile races, and he is constantly asking to do more. He runs/jogs the entire race and paces around a 10 minute mile. I sign him up for little kids’ races, and then he gets mad at me because they aren’t long enough. He is one of the most competitive 6 year olds I know. I know this isn’t the same as the girls above, but I get chastised for allowing my 6 year old to run.

I am constantly asking his allergist and regular doctor about the running. They say as long as he is asking to do it, we are good to go. His asthma doctor is THRILLED, and we have seen huge improvements in his ability to fight off chest infections. I am constantly asking my son if he is sore or if he hurts, and I won’t let him run if he looks tired or appears sick. I love that he enjoys a sport that I love, and talking with him during our runs is one of my most favorite and cherished things to do together. When people question whether or not he should run 5K races at his age, I have no doubts that I am doing the right thing by my son. I imagine each year he will run faster and farther, but only if HE wants to do that. I will not stop him if he wants to do it. In a nation of so many overweight children, I am happy my son wants to be active.

In terms of the twins, I understand the wanting to wait until they are older, but the other part of me thinks, “what if they don’t like it when they are older?” “What if they get injured doing something silly and then never get the chance to run long distances? ” I also think it is a bit odd that we question the amount of running they do, but most people don’t question our young swimmers who represented America this year in the Olympics. While swimming isn’t pounding, there are MANY injuries and issues that are associated with swimming. Why don’t we question those families?

Just my two cents :)

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insanity April 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm
Lisa October 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Had the honor to meet these girls when I assisted Danny Dreyer in his ChiRunning workshop in Houston last weekend. I never heard about them…of course I had to come home and google them…
so I blogged about them too ;)
http://myownrunningstory.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/the-youngest-chirunners-ive-ever-met/

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Loribeth April 3, 2014 at 10:01 am

hard to say. I just worry about the possible damage to joints and a growing heart that may not be designed to handle stress that young…

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