5K: Child's play as more kids head for the races

2013-06-08T00:00:00Z 2013-06-10T19:54:05Z 5K: Child's play as more kids head for the racesCara Cooperand Amber Gulla Medill Reports Chicago nwitimes.com

Ascher Cahn, 9, ran in the 8th Annual Breakthrough for Brain Tumors with 3,500 people over the weekend. And this is far from his first race.

“We do this thing at my school called Roman’s Run because our mascot is the Roman,” he said. “It’s where you run and stuff. I’ve been doing that since kindergarten.”

Now in third grade, Ascher continues to participate in races with his mom as well as running cross-country in school.

Long distance running is a wildly popular trend that continues to grow.

Children of all ages are not only participating in races with family and other adults, but there are some long distance races that are for children only. The McGaw YMCA in Evanston will hold its 5th Annual Youth Triathlon will be held on July 7, and it is only for children from ages 5 to 14 years old.

“We have had requests to add an adult component but we want the focus to be on the youth and their accomplishments at this race,” said Lori Siegel, senior director of youth development at the McGaw YMCA, via email. “Our event offers a Splash and Dash race, swim and run only, for those 5 to 7 years old. Ages 7 to 14 can participate in an individual race or participate as a relay team.“

And the children head into the races like pros. Training sessions will be offered for children in order to prepare for the event.

“Our clinic begins next Saturday at 4 p.m. and runs for 1½ hours each Saturday up until race day,” Siegel. “They focus on the basic components of each of the areas of swimming, cycling and running, then the transitions from each area and then race day nutrition. “

However, kids running long distances in competition also is raising debate.

“My initial reaction is that things like triathlons are far from what children should be doing,” said Ben Peterson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota who studies kinesiology. He sees potential harm in kids participating in longer distance races, he said. “It’s too challenging for them and puts their bodies under a lot of stress.”

Peterson does think that kids should be active, just not push themselves to the extremes. The “5Ks would be great, especially if they were to do it with their parents,” he said. Peterson said the best way for children to train for these events is to have someone they trust take them to a 5K and watch or participate, even if it’s just walking the course.

He relates this process to professional sports. “It just like baseball,” Peterson said. “Why would you try putting a kid right into major league baseball? Their bodies can’t handle the amount of stress yet.”

Peterson’s theory on gradual adjustment and practice for children is evident in Ascher’s development as a runner over the past three years. His school athletics and participation in other races continues to build as he continues to grow, especially with having his parents at his side.

“If I get the chance to do it again and my mom’s coming or my dad, then I’ll go,” Ascher said. “I had a lot of fun today, and I hope I get to do it again.”

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