‘A Six Year Old Does Not Understand What Embracing Misery Is’: Olympic Runner Slams Parents Who Let Young Son Run Marathon
Oscar Del Pozo/AFP via Getty Images

A Kentucky couple permitted their six-year-old son to run a 26.2 mile marathon, prompting condemnation from others, including an American distance runner who has competed in the Olympics.

Ben and Kami Crawford’s son Rainer ran with the rest of his family in the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sunday. He completed the race in 8.5 hours.

On Monday, Ben Crawford noted on Instagram:

On the marathon course, Rainier knew they usually hand out Pringles around mile 20. He was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes. After 7 hours, we finally got to mile 20 and only to find an abandoned table and empty boxes. He was crying and we were moving slow so I told him I’d buy him two sleeves if he kept moving. I had to promise him another sleeve to get him in the family pic at the finish line. Today I paid him off.

Kara Goucher, an American long-distance runner who won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics and represented the USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics, seemingly criticized the parents on Twitter, writing:

I don’t know who needs to hear this but a six year old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically. A six year old does not understand what embracing misery is. A six year who is “struggling physically” does not realize they have the right to stop and should.

I’m not questioning motivation or saying it is bad parenting. But as an Olympic athlete, I promise you this is not good for the child. Children are children. Let them run around, but as the parent you need to protect their growing bodies and their young minds.

“On a website they run, Crawford and his wife tout an intention to ‘live life outside of the box,’” The Washington Post noted. “They maintain an active presence on social media, including a YouTube channel, and claim to be the largest family to have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.”

Answering criticism of the race permitting Rainer to run, Iris Simpson Bush, the executive director of the Flying Pig Marathon, stated, “I assume full responsibility for the decision and accept that it was not the best course of action,” adding that in the future, the age minimum of 18 for the full marathon “will be strictly observed.”

On Tuesday, the Crawfords defended letting Rainer run the marathon, writing on Instagram, “ … We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally. We have given all of our kids the option for every race. … This year after begging to join us we allowed our 6 year old to train and attempt it. … We asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue.”

“Yes there were tears. He had a fall and every single member of our family has cried during marathons,” they continued. “These experiences were very limited compared to what has been reported and despite the incredible physical and emotional difficulty of running a marathon the amount of his crying is comparable to what we would have experienced had we stayed home on a Sunday morning.”

“You cannot bribe a child to train hundreds of hours and run 26 miles through the heat for a can of pringles. If you can’t see this you are lazy or not listening. … Our parenting methods are unconventional but we do not think accusations or arguments with incorrect facts are helpful,” they concluded.

Kami Crawford summed up, “I would say, overall, he was really happy to be done — just like I was — really happy to get a medal, happy to get all the food at the end. … He just seemed like a normal kid that was like, ‘Wow, I just did something really tough but also really rewarding.’”

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