Thursday, May 15, 2014

How young is too young to run?

Society is governed by a set of social norms. 400 years ago, because it was the only way to insure safe water, people drank booze all day long. Now, if I have a beer at 10am the neighbors tell me I should “lay off the bottle”, “put on some pants”, and “good god man, it is Tuesday”.  Similarly, a man can pump gas without a shirt on but any woman doing the same would quickly be ostracized or at the very least posted on a website for people who are into that kind of thing.  So, it would make sense that whenever a young child does anything physically remarkable at a young age the “concerned parent” groups raise an eyebrow The Rock style and the run bloggers get their keystrokes going and ask “How young is too young to run?”.

Grace Ping, at 10 years old she is as young as she is fast


In Minnesota, there is a world record breaking 10 year old female who is running 18min 5Ks and 31min 8Ks. Wowza. To put that into perspective, that is essentially a 5:45 pace by someone who likely hasn’t gone through puberty yet.  Is that too young?

Possibly a better question would be: “Is that too young to be running that fast/hard?”  According to anything that I can find, she is running 10-20 miles a week and doing some other cross training, sports, etc.  Not massive mileage by any stretch and somewhat in line with middle school / high school cross country programs. Some people might argue that she is doing damage to her still growing and developing body by asking it to perform at a level that most people could only dream of doing.

The flip side, of course, is that she is obviously naturally gifted and that any perceived excursion by her would be much smaller than the normal person.  To add, in a day in age of “obesity epidemics” and “fast food nations” to tell someone that they have to run slower or less when they want to go faster and harder would seem counter intuitive.

What do I think? If I don’t want to wear pants on Tuesday morning while getting the mail then I’m not going to! If it was my son and he truly wanted to run and was running that fast, I wouldn’t stop him or make him go slow. In the age of Mary Cain (high school elite level runner) and obesity epidemics I certainly wouldn’t’ be the one to tell him to stop.  But, I would probably make him diversify and play soccer or something similar.

What do you think? Is she crushing her baby bones or laying the foundation for a full ride at a college?



24 comments:

Rachel said...

If a young kid was a phenom at basketball or football or another highly followed US sport I don't think people would bat an eye at it. I don't see why running should be any different!

One Crazy Penguin said...

I think as long as no one is forcing her to run or pushing a training schedule on her, then more power to her. I think injury is based more on relative exertion than absolutes.

CliffHerd15 said...

These days it just seems like common sense has been totally discarded. If she is running injured then it's a totally different conversation but if she's training sensibly and taking care of herself, what possible reason do we have to stop her?

Jennifer Rogers said...

I say quit picking on the fit kid and let her have fun!

My own daughter is 10 months old, and from day one she has enjoyed backbends. It started with a little stretch/wiggle/squirm that would always end in a FULL backbend over my arm. If she wanted to do it, she was not content until I'd let her do it. I've never seen anything like it. Of course, it worried me at first, that she might be "crushing her little baby bones" but it eventually became our "normal." Now, at 10 months, she walks, she runs, she talks, she has a head full of teeth and eats ALL THE FOOD, she does yoga, and yes, she still does backbends and even flips (anywhere and everywhere, but we really have fun using a stability ball). She's even come close to a handstand, from downward facing dog... on her own. All of this has been on her own initiative, and as she grows I'll continue to be there to cheer her on, to guide her, and to lead by example.

Erica Gorman said...

If it is something she wants to do and not something she feels she has to do to keep her parents happy, go for it! Why should running at this age be any different than those young girls who are in dance class, gymnastics, etc.? And if it was my girl, I would embrace it as the opportunity to ensure she is balancing her workout efforts with solid nutrition and cross training and just play ol' playing and having fun!

Layla said...

There are girls her age wearing pointe ballet shoes, which cause all sorts of foot/toenail problems. Do we hear about that? Nope, because they look like stereotypical princesses. There are boys three years older playing freshman football, but do we hear about them getting concussions? Nope, instead they're glorified and given massive stadiums if they're in Texas.

Emily H said...

There are way more destructive sports and activities for kids than running 20mpw. I'd just be worried about burnout but if she wants to do something different later on that's totally fine too.

winonapings said...

Hello, I am Grace's mom, Megan. Grace love to run and she runs about 10 miles per week. She also is a star soccer player so she runs quite a bit more there. My husband, Ryan and I have always made fitness a priority for our family. We run, bike, hike, walk, and play soccer together for fun. We have little to no screen time. This is the environment Grace has grown up in and she is a very "fit" kid. I am also a chiropractor so I am able to keep her bones and muscles balanced.
Running is one of the greatest sports and we hope to inspire other kids to run!!!

fueledbylolz.com said...

This a really interesting concept that I have thought a lot about. Honestly she isn't running a marathon (I strongly believe that age or high school age do not need to be running marathons) and 20mph isn't bad at all. She is cross training and enjoying life so I say why not?

The Silent Assassin said...

I just ran the OC 2 weeks ago and there was a 10 year old that has ran 7 marathons in 7 different continents... If she's doing it because she wants to and she's honest with herself regarding how her body feels, I say go for it. Great post!

giraffy said...

This was an interesting article from RW (is that an oxymoron??) about fast HS runners: http://www.runnersworld.com/high-school-racing/why-are-these-teens-so-fast?page=single

Just for some perspective, in our experience, our HS XC team runs the teams together, regardless of gender, and splits them up by pace only. In XC season, they regularly run 40-50 mile weeks. Track season, it cut back to around 25-30mpw. During summer camp season, for varsity/returning runners, they were 50+. They run a half marathon together in the winter.

That said, if my 7 year old wanted to run a 5k? That's cool. 3 miles is not too much, as long as she trained for it. A half marathon? Heck no, so much pounding on teeny tiny still developing bones. I don't know any sciencey things to back this up, it's just a gut reaction.

10yrs old, for that type of distance? Probably not such a big deal, IMO, as long as her parents aren't pushing it on her.

Westplex Runner said...

As a parent of a competitive college distance runner, as long as it is the child's choice and within reason, let them run. My daughter is not a Mary Cain but is fast enough for a full ride scholarship based on running and grades.

When kids are growing up, be supportive, encourage them to try multiple sports, and focus on fundamentals of the sport. Teach them to try their best and whatever they are doing.

Losing Lindy said...

my 7 yr old (just turned 7 on 5/4) has run 5 5ks with a current PR of 32:49 (when he was 6)and has run 1 10k(when he was 6) with a time of 1:11:24. He goes to our running club 3 nights a week with a max of 4 miles (which we did once, normally it is 3 miles). He has completed 2 kids marathons. He also swims, plays soccer and is a normal 7 year old. He would be faster, but I slow him down.

He loves it. If it wasn't so expensive to fund two for a race, he would do more.

Sue's Ramblings said...

She should be allowed to do as much as her body will allow her to. All of us, kids and adults, are different, have different genes, capacity etc. Hmm...can I borrow her legs some time? :)

HS Matt said...

there is no reason for a kid under 12 to race a 10k.

Jamoosh said...

Yesterday I left a comment that was offensive to at least one reader. For that I apologize (and thank Adam for taking it down). The gist of my comment was that I would reserve judgment until the young lady is 21 years old because a lot can happen in 11 years and there are some facts we don't know or won't play out for awhile.
For example, more is known about the impact of gymnastics on young girls than running and we have seen the unfortunate health problems gymnasts are subjected to later in life because they were training hard and competing at such a young age. This same data and observation does not exist for running, hence it may be some time before we know.
Here's what we do know; as noted in the comments above, Grace's parents promote fitness among the entire family and Grace is passionate about running. What we do not know is what the next 11 years brings. Kids change, especially in their teens. By the time the young lady is 21 she may be a world class runner enjoying every moment of competition; she may have rebelled because she felt she had an obligation to continue to do something she was good at, but stopped enjoying; or she may have decided to become a doctor and help people. We just don't know which is why I reserve judgment. I don't want to berate parents who do not deserve it and I don't want to question the passion of a young runner who is obviously very talented.

John M. said...

I have a 10 year old that runs 28 minute 5k's. He does this on his own, and with the full encouragement of his parents. He has fun doing it; We really don't see the need to discourage him in something he derives joy from.

Chad ontheNorthCoast said...

I think she is awesome and hope she keeps at it. No matter how hard or how far she runs, she will never do as much damage to herself as the kids eating McDonald's and playing video games are.

runsaltrun.com said...

I think as long as this is all her idea and there is no creepy overbearing parent forcing her to do it, then more power to her. It's not like she's running full marathons.

I wish I was as fast as a 10 year old.

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine said...

As far as I am concerned there doesn't appear to be an issue, if anything (assuming proper nutrition) she has a high level of bone density and is no different than hard-core child gymnasts.

If she is running 10-20 miles a week (at her pace of 5:45-6) and doing other cross training/resistance/other activities she is following the CDC & ACSM's exercise recommendations for youth (6-17 y.o.)-> 60 minutes each day for all 7 days of the week

Erik Ammon said...

Do what makes you happy! No one complained about their 8 year old daughters playing 3 or 4 soccer games in one day and 6-7 over three days at my daughter's soccer tournament. No one is complaining about the elementary school kids I teach that have practice for various sports (I do include cheerleading in here) 3-5 days a week, plus games and tournaments, and competitions that they have to leave for at 3:30 to 4:00 in the morning for.

People gotta get over themselves!

Shannon King said...

If she isn't being forced to run, is happy running fast and hard, and isn't causing damage to her body...then I say all the more power to her. Running is good for a body, generally speaking. I think you should be allowed to check the mail while drinking a beer at 10am on a Tuesday with no pants on if that's how you roll...go for it.

Book Dragon said...

It doesn't look like her mileage is extreme and as long as she's having a good time, go for it.

She needs to watch her body fat percentage so it doesn't get too low, just like other women athletes.

I hope she's having a good time and continues on, injury free, forever.