To begin, I know this is a somewhat controversial topic. I’ve never been one to shy away from that sort of thing though, so let’s jump right on in.
This summer, I am coaching my son and 2 of his friends to run the Madison Mini Half Marathon in August. My son is currently 12 years old, but all 3 boys will be 13 on race day.
I know, I know, I know. Some people think it’s crazy to allow kids that young to run a half. They say people should master the shorter distances first. They warn that kids will get burnt out. They caution that the kids will get hurt. These are all very valid points I have carefully considered and researched. Yet, I think it is all very individual and I know not every child at their age is ready and able to conquer 13.1. But these kids are ready and I know they are going to crush it.
I’ll readily admit they have definitely have not mastered the shorter races, but they are running them in cross-country and track. They are also still growing and PRing left, right and sideways. Even better, they have been running and playing a ton of other sports for years. Most importantly, they all really want it, are putting in the time to make it happen, and are having fun in the process.
My key goal is ensuring they have fun and stay injury free. They are all talented runners and the last thing I want to do is mess up their fall training season or see them hurt or burnt out. So we are all in on this – working together and training for a solid race in August. And we’re having a great time.
Here is how it started.
My son told me this winter he wanted to train for and run a half. This isn’t a new request. Growing up with a marathoning momma, he’s been claiming he wants to run a marathon and every distance he’s seen me race since he’s been about 5 years old. I’m not going to let him take the jump into marathoning until he is done growing (which I have told him will be around 18-22), but he has been running since he was 4, starting with kids’ fun runs. That evolved to the annual Capitol Mile race, which he has run every year since he was 5. At age 8, I caved and finally let him run his first 5k and he’s run dozens since. He’s trained for two 5 mile races and one 10k during the last few years. Last fall he ran cross country and LOVED it. This spring, he ran track and enjoyed it, but wanted to run longer.
So when he begged me to coach him for the half, I finally considered it seriously. Why? First, he truly loves to run and race. I’ve never pushed him to do this, he wants it. Second, I told him he could do it only if he fully committed to training for it. A half is no joke. It takes real work and commitment, like any other sport season + 1. He said he was all in. The race is late summer, so he’ll have all summer break to train following track season. Please, please, please, mom.
So I said yes.
But then, of course, he told his friends about it. During track season. Actually during the peak of track season when they were all kicking butt, taking names and feeling strong. Several of his friends said they wanted to do it too at first. But by the time it came to put their mouths where the miles are, two friends remained steadfast in this endeavor. They are both strong, talented runners with years of soccer under their belts and strong cross country and track seasons, and a spattering of local races. They really wanted in too. I said yes, but only on the same condition plus one: not only must they follow a training schedule, they must also let me keep track of them / coach them.
Naturally I was worried about passing off an excel spreadsheet with a 14 week half marathon training program to kids I couldn’t monitor closely. Not only is that irresponsible in general, these kids are talented runners. The last thing I’m going to do is give them a copy of my son’s schedule (which I knew would be fluid throughout the season) and let them train themselves into injury just before cross country season.
Fortunately the boys, along with their families, jumped in head first. The boys have properly fitting shoes to get them to the finish line. We are about to start our 9th week of training. They’ve run alone, they’ve met up multiple times throughout the week, and they are getting it done. Sometimes it’s hard. Really hard. It’s been hot, it’s been humid, we’ve been running long runs, tempo runs and speed work. They’ve rocked it and even learned to run super easy on easy runs.
In the beginning of the season, they ran their first 5k of the season and they all PRed. 18:37, 20:12 and 20:19. Rock stars. Last weekend they all PRed again. Hopefully before our race they can log a 10k race before our half, but that is up in the air with camps and travel schedules. None of this history will dictate our race pace, however. We intentionally don’t have a goal and will set it as we get closer and will adjust as we see the weather forecast. Overall goal: start conservative, finish strong (negative split) and have a great time as we knock out this big goal.
I’ll keep you updated on our progress. In the meantime, chime in:
Would you let your 13 year old run a half or do you think I’m nuts?