Parents of a six-year-old boy who recently completed a full-length marathon are being condemned for making the child run alongside them in the race and are being accused of bribing him to keep moving when he was struggling.
Runners must be 18 years old to participate in the Flying Pig Marathon, a 26.2-mile race in Cincinnati, Ohio.
But on Sunday, Rainer, a six-year-old from Bellevue, Kentucky, completed the entire race with his parents, Ben and Kami Crawford. It took him more than 8.5 hours.
The Crawfords, a family-of-eight, who chronicle their adventures on a YouTube Channel, have a prominent presence on social media, and once wrote a book about being the largest family to hike the Appalachian Trail. But this was their first marathon as a family.
The parents and race organizers, who said they were aware of the child participating, received swift backlash online after the race.
The child’s father posted on Instagram that Rainer had been ‘struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes.’
The post continued: ‘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 [of Pringles] if he kept moving.’
But the parents defended their decision in a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday, as they addresses concerns and recognized their unconventional parenting methods.
Rainer Crawford, 6, of Bellevue, Kentucky, completed the Flying Pig Marathon with his parents, Ben and Kami Crawford. It took him more than 8.5 hours
Ben and Kami Crawford posted on Instagram that Rainer had been ‘struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes’
‘We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally,’ the Crawford parents wrote.
‘We have given all of our kids the option for every race. Last year two kids ran it without us. In 9 years we have been awarded a total of 53 medals – mostly to the kids.
‘This year after begging to join us we allowed our 6 year old to train and attempt it. Both parents gave him a 50/50 chance of completing it and were ready to pull the plug at any moment if he requested it or if we viewed his safety at risk.
‘We asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue. We did not see any sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration and honored his request to keep on going.’
The child’s father posted on Instagram that Rainer had been ‘struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes’
The story has caught the attention of Olympic runners, with Olympian Kara Goucher saying six is too young for a marathon.
‘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,’ Goucher said on her verified Twitter account.
‘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.’
Flying Pig Executive Director Iris Simpson Bush responded to the backlash in an open letter published Wednesday.
‘The intent was to try to offer protection and support if they were on our course (Medical, Fluids and Replenishment).’ the letter read. ‘Our decision was intended for some amount of safety and protection for the child. The family finished the race after the formal closure of the race course.’
Race organizers say they plan to enforce the age limits moving forward.
The parents and race organizers, who said they were aware of the child participating, received swift backlash online after the race
The Crawfords, a family of eight, who chronicle their adventures on a YouTube Channel, have a prominent presence on social media, finished the race as a family