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How to survive parkrun with your child

by Caroline44
Monday 22nd February 2016
I started running with my eldest, Tom, about 6 months ago.  Saturday mornings had been ‘swimming lesson’ morning for around three years, but his heart wasn’t in it anymore.  This, coupled with his self-declared target to run a marathon, led me to suggest we try out the local parkrun.
Many of you will be familiar with the concept of parkrun, but for the un-initiated, here are the basics:
It happens 9am every Saturday in many locations across the UK (and the world)

The route terrain will vary but will be safe and will be 5km

It is free, but you do need to register and get a barcode.  You can use this barcode at any of the parkrun locations.  It will be scanned at the end of the run in order to record your time.

Any child over 4 can run, but all under 11s have to be accompanied by an adult.

Well behaved dogs on a lead are also welcome

You do not have to put your child on a lead (unless you really want to)


parkrun kids

And here are the lessons I have learnt through running a parkrun with my 9 year old son:
1. Most children can’t pace themselves.  They will set off too fast and waste energy by leaping around like a Ninja/Superhero/Dingbat and making noise (this bit is mainly confined to the male variety of child).  When they inevitably grind to a halt, pick a target point for them to walk to before they start running again.  If your local parkrun has lamp-posts en route, use the old trick of running for four lamp-posts and walking for one (choose the numbers that work for you). If you are going for the full Tiger Mummy manoeuvre you can count them in French/Spanish/Klingon.

2. Take a bottle of water.  Yes I know it’s only 5km and freezing cold, but once they have sprinted off and yelled a lot, they will be thirsty.

3. Don’t believe them when they insist they will be warm enough in their shorts.  When it’s minus 5 degrees and frosty, they will get cold and they will point this out constantly until your ears start bleeding.  Make them wear joggers, or if they have stuck with it for a while and you want to invest in kit, check out online stores like Wiggle that have a selection of affordable kids kit, including running tights.  

4. Do try out other parkruns.  Going to different parkruns adds variety and appeals to the ‘collector’ in most kids – i.e. the trait exploited by the makers of mini-figures and unending book series with the same re-hashed plots (apparently they are now up to episode 90 in BeastQuest ).

5. Do make it fun and remember why you’re there.  It may be the slowest 5km you have ever run, but it’s also valuable time with your child when you can teach him the important things in life.  For example, Tom now knows that it is imperative to sprint across the finish line, even if you have crawled and sobbed for the past X miles.  He can also count to ten in Klingon.  Job done.


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