8 Tips for successful Family Fun Runs with Kids
The term "Fun Run" does seem like a misnomer. I mean, running involves sweating and gasping for air. It's hard on your knees, you get cramps and side aches, but – believe it or not – it is all worth it at the finish.
As that wise and blond heroine Elle Woods once said, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." And you never see unhappy people at the Fun Run finish lines. What you see are red-faced, grinning, high-fiving, sweaty, hugging, happy people. These are people of all ages and sizes who have set a goal and accomplished it. What an awesome moment to watch and an even better moment to experience.
I have long since lost count of the number of Fun Runs I have done, although, come to think of it, I could probably dig through my closet and count the T-shirts (FYI: Fun Run swag is fun to collect). When my kids were very little, they would make big signs and my lovely husband would wrangle them to one or two spots along the race course so they could clang cowbells, cheer wildly and run alongside me for a short while. That was super cool.
Now that they are older, we've sought out Fun Runs that really incorporate families so that everyone can participate. I should also mention that besides the obvious exercise benefit, these runs are often fundraisers for charities, foundations or nonprofits. My daughter and I have had great conversations about where our race fees go and who the money helps. I really like that these events combine something that is healthy for our own bodies with something that is healthy for our communities.
There are plenty of race length options to choose from, even during the same event. Just recently, my family tackled Beat the Bridge. My daughter and I ran the 8K and my husband, sons and father-in-law did a 4K walk. The event also offered a 1-mile kids' run and a Diaper Derby Dash for kids ages 3 and younger. All event start times were staggered which made it easy for one family to participate in multiple events.
Logistics can be tricky while sorting multiple people of multiple ages into multiple events. Here are some tips for keeping the fun in a Fun Run:
1. Pick up your race packets as soon as you can. Do not wait until the morning of the race. The packets contain your bibs and timing chips which you affix to your shirts and shoes. It is MUCH easier to do this ahead of time.
2. Fun Runs are usually early in the morning. Have your kids lay out all their gear, including shoes, the night before. Try to layer with something you can tie around waists. Most races have gear checks, but it can take a long time to check in or pick up and it's always better to avoid lines with kids.
3. Keep breakfast simple. There are always snacks at the finish line.
4. Read your Fun Run FAQ page on their website. Know if your race allows strollers or scooters or pets. Some do, some don't.
5. Look at your Fun Run Course map with your runners ahead of time. The courses are usually well marked, but it gets the kids excited and it's a good opportunity to explain the terrain.
6. Set expectations, theirs and yours. Even if your 7-year-old child can do a sub 8-minute mile for the first mile, he probably cannot sustain it and will hate the rest of the race. Talk about pacing. It's good to be able to hold a conversation while running. If you are too out of breath to manage a couple of sentences, slow down.
7. Explain the water stations. Wonderful volunteers hand out cups of water to thirsty runners as they are running. Don't stop and linger at the station, drink as you move. And try to drop the finished cups into the strategically placed recycling cans, instead of on the ground. Those same volunteers have to clean up after you.
8. Be sure to save a little bit of energy for the finish line. The crowd is chaotic and noisy and fantastic when you turn the final corner. Sprinting down the chute and over the line makes it that much sweeter.
Now get out there and have fun while you run!
Editor's Note: This updated article was originally published in June of 2014.