Should Kids Run Ultras?

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Highlights from the October 2013 Trail Runner Blog Symposium


The October 2013 Trail Runner Blog Symposium topic of discussion was: Should kids be allowed to run ultras?

We’ve covered a few young ultrarunners in our Making Tracks department in recent issues of Trail Runner. Given the mixed reactions the parents of these kids often receive, we wanted to open up a discussion about kids and ultrarunning. Ideas vary, but many bloggers feel that ultrarunning is healthier than many of the alternatives kids may have, such as sitting on a couch all day or engaging in more physically aggressive sports like football or rugby.

Here, you’ll find a few highlights from the entries we received.

In our Editors’ Choice this month, Jacob Puzey dispels a few myths about why kids shouldn’t run ultramarathons.

Next month’s topic is: To be announced soon. See here for directions on how to participate.



***Editors’ Choice
If I have a choice between staying inside seated in front of a computer all day or being outside, upright and moving I will always choose the latter. Shouldn’t kids have the same choices? Society needs more and more kids constructively dealing with ADHD, depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes and all of our other self-imposed maladies through activity in the outdoors, not fewer.
Jacob Puzey, Columbia Corridor Corredor

How can we improve our knowledge if no one is allowed to talk about or promote kids running? How can we spread the word that kids are doing amazing things if we are being accused of abusing them? Is anyone questioning the moms and dads that allow their kids to slam into each other, causing thousands of head injuries each year on the football field or hockey rink?
Shawna Wentlandt, Dr. Shawna Runs (Mother to 12-year-old Colby, who just completed his first 100-miler)

The motivation to run an ultra must come from within, since there’s going to be very little peer pressure (within any age group) to participate. In fact, we’ve probably encountered the opposite; friends and family who try to convince us we shouldn’t run ultras. If a 16 or 17 year old has a desire to run ultra distances instead of going out for their high school football or basketball team, then we should respect and acknowledge that desire. Isn’t a big part of being ready to run an ultra the desire to do so?
Jacob Wyatt, Sometimes I Run



There will undoubtedly be some areas of concern that parents need to be watchful of (for example, a lapse in school grades, risk of overuse injuries, or over-zealousness that leads to unrealistic race goals), but with close monitoring these things can be prevented or detected before they become too much of a problem.
Jannine Myers, Run with WOOT

I think ultras are not the greatest idea for kids if health is the primary focus. But when you remove that from the equation, you are offering them the option to set world records as the youngest to ever accomplish something, to get outside for hours on end, to travel and to prove to themselves that they can.
Jennifer Kuepfer, Laces and Lattes

My daughter is 6, soon to be 7 years old. On average she races about 3 times a year with her longest distance so far being 5k. During these races I think she learns some pretty important life lessons (whether she knows it or not right now) about perseverance, following through with something you set out to do, self-motivation and determination. So, what if my little 5-ker suddenly wanted to run a half, full or (gasp) an ultra?
Vibram Chic, Running the Passage



For sure, a kid loves track and field training. Especially, if they are among friends. To make them undergo such a demanding procedure like training for an ultra, would be heartless.
Yannis Papstilos

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada