The Benefits of Running with Kids (and How to Choose Your First 5K)

Watching my children grow up is bittersweet. On one hand, I’m proud of their accomplishments and the amazing people they’re becoming. On the other hand, I worry that, as they turn into teenagers, they’ll retreat into their own little shells. Running with kids is one way for me to bond with them, as well as give them an outlet that has worked well for me.

A couple weekends ago, my 11-year-old son and I ran our first 5K together. I’ve wanted to run with him ever since he expressed interest in running. He wanted to run a 5K with me. We’ve had a couple of mother-son runs, but nothing significant until he brought home a flyer for a nearby 5K. Here’s why we chose that 5K:

  • A local school PTA sponsored it, meaning there would be plenty of parents running with kids.
  • It was a “fun run,” so there would be no pressure to race it.
  • Did I mention it was nearby? That way, for his first 5K, he wouldn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

The 5K itself was a short course. We did a lot more walking than running, and we sang Christmas carols as we made our way through the route. After that, I came away with some tips for running with kids, especially if it’s their first 5K:

  • Expect to walk a lot. Unless your kid is super-competitive, it’s hard for them to keep propelling their little legs. My kid does not run long distances on a regular basis, although it’s certainly possible!
  • Don’t use the 5K as your workout. I woke up an hour early to get in my run because I knew I’d be walking a lot during the 5K with the kid.
  • Have fun! We talked, sang, and laughed. We were silly. It was the most fun I’ve had with him a long time, and he loved running with me, even if most of it was walking. Keep the emphasis on having fun so that they’ll want to do it again.

Running with kids can be frustrating at first - but ultimately, the benefits will far outweigh the initial angst attached.

The Benefits of Running with Kids

I love my solo time running, but running with my kid is very fulfilling. It doesn’t just have benefits for me, either:

  • Running with kids gets them off the couch. Running is one of those sports that literally anyone in good health can do with a decent pair of shoes. In a time when physical education is being cut from a lot of schools, running can help them release some energy and keep them healthy.
  • It’s a good bonding experience. Our runs are a time to talk about important and not-so-important things.
  • It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime. I only wish I had discovered running earlier. Running is when I release stress, work through problems in my head, and clear my mind. I’m hoping that as he grows older, he can find that same peace by lacing up.

Hopefully, there will be more 5Ks in our future, and maybe one day, a half marathon where we can pace each other. But for now, I’m happy with short runs and time spent with him.