If you haven’t noticed the upturn in kid’s running events in recent years then all I can say is ‘where have you been?’, writes Louise Sylvester. What started out as a few fun runs ‘tagged on’ to the main event has exploded into something much bigger, and dare I say it more exciting. It would seem that this new generation of runners is taking its cue from the current mass of grown up recreational runners and doing as they do - running for fun.
One initiative that is firmly in the fun camp is GO Run For Fun. The programme has a very simple aim - to get as many kids as possible, between the age of 5 and 10, running, through well-organised fun events. And, large and small, those events have happened across the UK since August 2013. For many children GO Run For Fun is their first experience of mass participation running and the package laid on by organisers is making that first experience a good one! Neo (age 6) said of his experience: “It was so much fun and the best bit was the finish. I would like to do more running.”
But it’s not just campaigns such as GO Run For Fun that are encouraging children to ‘toe the line’, more and more of the established big race organisers now view kids races as an essential part of their event portfolio. GSi events organise plenty of events where youngsters can get involved – from their 18 Big Fun Runs in locations across the UK to the junior events at their Edinburgh and Bournemouth marathon festival weekends.
Annette Drummond of GSi Events told runABC: “I think we have a social responsibility to get kids involved and help them lead healthier lives. For us, it is a no brainer - the road closures are already in place for adult races, so why not make the most of that fact and put on events that other members of the family can enjoy too?
“If you were to ask me why the kids events are proving so popular then I would say it is down to a number of factors from wanting to emulate their parents to the so-called Olympic/Commonwealth effect. Whatever the reason, it is just what this country needs to tackle its very real obesity crisis.”
Just as there are races to cater for every taste in the adult world, so to for the kids. From road races, to cross-country to adventure racing. If mum and dad can do it, then their mini me’s can have a shot as well. Indeed when you think about it, the progression from conventional fun run to outright ‘mudfest’ is an obvious one. The new crop of junior adventure runs combine everything kids love in one big, muddy package. Running- check, getting dirty – check, climbing – check, the most fun ever - check!
Tough Mudder, the internationally renowned obstacle event series now includes Mini Mudder courses which give kids a chance to work as a team, get muddy and experience the thrill of adventure just like their parents. Mini Mudder participant Ava McMurray (age 6) loved taking part: “I have been to watch my daddy take part in Tough Mudder before and always wanted to do it with him. It was so much fun sliding into the mud at the end! And I love my headband!”
With countless other kids like Ava being both enthused and inspired by the endeavours of their parents, the popularity of junior events shows no signs of abating. We can watch with interest over the coming years as the 1.5k juniors of today become the marathon runners of the future.