Why These YouTubers Made Their Six-Year-Old Son Finish a 42K Marathon
Photos posted to social media of a six-year-old completing a 42km marathon in the US have sparked a backlash against the child’s parents and the organization that sponsored the race.
The parenting influencers claimed their son struggled physically but was promised a tube of Pringles if he continued after seven.
Kami and Ben Crawford, who manage Instagram and YouTube accounts documenting their family’s outdoor activities, posted photos of their brood running the Flying Pig marathon together on Sunday.
The messages quickly provoked hundreds of responses, raising concerns about the child’s health and safety.
“A six-year-old doesn’t understand embracing misery,” tweeted Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympic long-distance runner.
“A six-year-old struggling ‘physically’ doesn’t realize he has the right to quit, and he should.”
The Crawfords did not immediately respond to email inquiries.
Parents of six children, ages six to twenty, the Crawfords regularly post videos to their 12,000+ Instagram followers and nearly 50,000 YouTube subscribers capturing their lives with their children.
The Crawfords, parents of six children, ages six to 20, claim that most of their children have “run a minor marathon.” Credit: Instagram
The family often takes part in ambitious running and hiking trips, including hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Family-oriented social media channels have been popular for over a decade, often leading to criticism from parents and concern for children.
A YouTube spokesperson said the Crawfords’ videos of their six-year training for the Cincinnati Marathon did not break any rules.
The Crawfords’ marathon posts started to gain attention in the days following the marathon, most notably around an Instagram post that said their son was “physically struggling and wanted to take a break every three minutes and sit down”.
The Crawfords wrote that they promised Pringles if their son “keep moving” after seven.
The Crawfords wrote that they promised Pringles if their son “keep moving” after seven. Credit: Instagram
According to Crawford’s Instagram posts, finishing the race with their youngest child took the family eight hours and 35 minutes.
They said in Instagram comments that they plan to release footage from the race on their YouTube channel.
The Crawfords have since defended their decision to run with their kid, writing in an Instagram post-Wednesday that they let him run the full marathon “after he begged to join us”.
“We asked him several times if he wanted to stop, and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue,” the message reads.
“We saw no sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration and have honored his request to continue.”
While physical activity is encouraged at all ages, a 2003 article in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine said children should not run long distances because they are not fully developed physically.
Research published in the National Library of Medicine in 2010 suggests that children who walk long distances are more likely to be injured.
The organization behind the marathon, Pig Works, has called the exception for the Crawfords “not the best course of action” in a statement.
“Halfway through,” the Crawfords wrote the picture of their youngest son halfway through the marathon. Credit: Instagram
Pig Works president Iris Simpson Bush wrote in an emailed statement that she decided to include the entire Crawford family, including an exception for the six-year-old.
The event is for adults 18 and older; in the future, Bush said the age limit would be strictly enforced.
“This decision was not taken lightly because the father was determined to do the race with his young child no matter what,” Bush wrote.
“They had done it like bandits in previous years before we knew anything about it, and we knew he would probably do it again.”
The term “bandits” describes people participating in official races without registering.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Ben Crawford wrote that most of his children had run a minor marathon with the help of race organizers, notably Bush.
For a year, Crawford wrote that his daughter, then six, was seeing a doctor before a race.
This year, Crawford wrote in the same Facebook post that Bush “didn’t have to worry about the doctor’s visit because we seemed ‘prepared’.”
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A Pig Works spokesperson said Crawford’s Facebook posts about Bush are “inaccurate”.
The Resistance isn’t the first time videos of the Crawfords have been criticized.
In a 2018 video, while the Crawfords were on the Appalachian trail, Ben and Kami said Child Protective Services officers were waiting for them as they left the course during a snowstorm.
After speaking with the children, CPS took no action against the Crawford family.
“In a way, this is kind of our worst nightmare: government intervention by taking your kids and losing control,” Ben said in the video.
The Crawfords posted another video on Saturday claiming that child protection officers were revisiting them.
They claim the officers referred to seven reports made to them after the race and gave reason to believe the claims were unfounded. That statement has not yet been officially made.
Goucher told NBC News that she stands by her tweet but is conflicted with the response the Crawfords are getting because she believes they are doting parents.
“I’m not going to change my mind,” Goucher said of young children unfit to run marathons.
She said she supports families who run together but wished they had walked a mile instead of 42.
In a follow-up tweet, Goucher wrote: “I’m not questioning motivation or saying it’s bad parenting. But as an Olympic athlete, I promise this is not good for the kid.”