A Parent Runner’s Savior: Race Day Childcare

Not exactly the prerace encouragement you were looking for.
Not exactly the pre-race encouragement you were looking for.

Does your partner ever give you a hard time about watching the kids so you can race?

Do you and your partner have to take turns racing so one of you can be there with the kids?

Do you arrange for early morning childcare only to have the prospective sitter call you the night before to cancel, at which time you immediately gulp as the training efforts and race costs go down the tube?

An innovative mother runner in Boulder, Colorado, who’s run everything from 5k’s to ultra-marathons, experienced all of these scenarios and more after she had children. The juggling, the anxiety, and the guilt began. But one day on a run (of course), she had an epiphany: races should provide childcare!

Michelle, founder of PRKids, and her family.

Searching for a Solution to Becoming the Solution

Michelle Duvall Kalinski, Chief Entertainment Officer and founder of PRKids, LLC, began her search for on-location, race day childcare, but had little luck finding any. She discovered several hurdles for mobile childcare services: from the fact that licensing is usually tied to a specific location to insurance and regulatory issues that make providing childcare at race locations difficult.

Although at first she didn’t intend to provide the service herself, after months of searching she began working on a business plan and obtained an exemption from the State of Colorado’s licensing requirement. If PRKids complies with the terms and conditions of the exemption, the State may create a license specifically for mobile childcare operations. Michelle believes that licensing a mobile childcare service like hers is important to ensure that all programs provide quality, safe, and fun childcare at races and beyond.

PRKids ready for the kids!
PRKids ready for the kids!

Michelle’s company currently provides race day childcare at races of distances up to marathon length along the Front Range of Colorado, from Colorado Springs in the south to Fort Collins in the north. RaceKids, a similar program, provides childcare services at designated Rock’n’Roll Marathons.

What Your Kids and Your Wallet Can Expect

PRKids is currently available for children ages 5-12 years and RaceKids serves children ages 18 months-12 years. Both programs offer organized activities, crafts, interactive and structured games, free time, and snacks or meals. If the venue has indoor space, especially in the colder months, Michelle tries to set up her space inside. She has a heated tent as well as dividers for outdoor venues. RaceKids uses the race’s host hotel as their on-location site. Both services open an 60-90 minutes before a race starts so that kids can get settled and parents have time for those last-minute race prep.

Staff is certified in First Aid, CPR and EpiPen administration. Staff to child ratio is low, generally 1:6, depending on the age of children and length of the race. Children and parents have matching wristbands for security purposes and PRKids requires the parent to run with a cell phone, even lending them phone carriers, in case of emergency.

Pricing is based on the number of children, sometimes offering discounts for siblings, and length of race or projected time. Currently, pricing is competitive with in-home childcare, the main competitor to these services.

Getting the Word Out

Race directors are critical to the success of race day child care: they provide space at the venue and help advertise the availability of childcare services. If runners express a great amount of interest, race directors will get the message that runners need and want this service. As the word spreads, Michelle hopes that parent runners will scout out available race day childcare and hopefully choose races that use one of these services. Word of mouth will be one of the best marketing tools for race day childcare.

Michelle sees these services as win-win: parents have time before and after their runs to focus on the race, and kids have fun activities in a safe environment, providing them an experience to look forward to on race day, too.

Do you think you’d use a race day childcare service? What could a race day childcare service offer or do to attract your business?

I'm a senior masters runner. I write about my running journey and topics of interest to runners of all ages. My current goal is to maintain of steady base of road and (new to me) trail running, with some 5k, 10k, and half marathons throughout the year.

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  1. There should be a photo of a toddler flinging himself across the threshold as a runner is frantically trying to leave in time to park and get in a good warm-up! This is a great idea and I know a LOT of people who would use it!

  2. One of my friends’ two daughters were among PRUSAKids first clients. They barely paid attention when their mom returned from her run. Win-win!

    1. There’s groundwork already and although it seems every state may (or may not as Michelle discovered) have rules and regulations, it seems there’d be lots of interest. The directors of races are important key to making this work.