kids running a 5KAs a parent, you pride yourself on all the things you do to keep your kids healthy. From making sure they have well-balanced, delicious lunches packed for school to ensuring they are up-to-date on their vaccines.

Because you know your kids need to get at least an hour of vigorous activity a day, you also encourage them to get involved in sports and other physical activity. Maybe you’ve even considered getting them ready to run a 5K race along with you and your spouse.

Now is an excellent time of year to do that. There are many upcoming races in the Seattle area including the Seattle Children’s race “I Can and I Will” run at Green Lake on Saturday, Oct 16th, 2022, the “Turkey Trot” on Thursday, November 24th, and “Holiday Fun Run” on Saturday, December 17th both at Magnuson Park.

Recently I wrote a blog on “How to Train for a 5K Race in Seattle to Prevent Foot and Ankle Injuries”. Many of the tips in that article will also help get your kids ready for a 5K, but in addition there are several other things to keep in mind when encouraging your little ones to run. Here are some questions you might be asking yourself.

Should My Kids Be Running A 5K in Seattle?

It depends on their age and their desire. Kids as young as 7 or 8 can run a 5K, which is 3.1 miles. That’s one trip around Green Lake. If your family is already fairly active than you can just include training for a 5K as part of your usual family activities. Your kids will likely be excited about taking part. However, if you bring up the idea and they complaint or don’t seem interested, you might want to reconsider.

Even if your kids are enthusiastic, it's important to find a race where kids can walk or run, so there’s no pressure.

How Much Training Do My Kids Need To Do for A 5K?

First, consider how active your kids are right now. If they are fairly sedentary than give them 6-8 weeks to get ready. If they’re already active, then a three or four weeks should be sufficient. Start them out walking and alternate with running. Here’s a training schedule suggested by WebMD.

Week 1: Walk 3 days, not in a row (for example: Saturday, Monday, Wednesday), for 15-20 minutes each time. Encourage the kids to bounce a ball when they walk, or count the red cars, to make it fun.

Week 2: Walk 3 days, not in a row, for 20 minutes each time. If your goal is to run the 5K, then start to switch between running and walking. Walk 2-3 minutes, then run 30 seconds.

Week 3: Walk 3 days, not in a row, for 30 minutes each time. If your plan is to run the race, keep switching between running and walking: maybe 2 minutes walking, 1 minute running, then 2 minutes walking. Increase the amount of time you run instead of walk, if you can.

Week 4: until the week before your race: Walk 3 days, not in a row, for 30 minutes each time. If you plan to run the 5K, switch between running and walking, spending more time running than walking.

Week of the race: Take 3 days off before the race.

How Can I Encourage My Child to Run?

Don’t call it exercise. At these early ages it’s important to encourage them to think of physical activity as something fun, so that they’ll build up good habits for the future. You don’t want your kids to think of training for a fun run as something they have to do. Try incorporating games such as “I Spy” or some other running games into your training so your kids don’t get bored.

Get them excited by taking them to your own races and talk about why you love to run. Most kids naturally want to get involved in the same activities as their parents. Then make their first run a family affair. 

Besides walking and running, add in other activities like swimming, biking, or soccer. You may also want to consider getting your kids involved in organizations that focus on running, like Girls on the Run.

What About My Younger Children?

For kids under 7, bring a stroller (a running stroller is ideal). That way younger kids can always jump on board when they get tired, and it won’t slow up everyone else.

What If My Child Has Foot Pain?

Young children who complain of foot pain should get checked out by a Seattle podiatrist. Young kids can develop heel pain. Sometimes the heel pain is plantar fasciitis, but most often it’s a condition called Sever’s Disease affecting young athletes ages 10-15. Both these conditions are treatable, and both would require your child refrain from running until then.

Other painful foot problems common in children include plantar warts and ingrown toenails. The Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City has the latest advancements in treating plantar warts (Swift Immune Therapy). Ingrown toenails are treated with simple, office-based surgery.

Finally, kids can have a foot problem without experiencing pain. Sometimes those foot problems are inherited. Here are some of the warning signs.

Your child:

  • has trouble keeping up with their peers

  • doesn’t want to participate in activities they usually enjoy

  • avoids showing you their feet

  • trips and falls frequently

  • wants to be carried after walking short distances

  • has unusual walking patterns

  • has pain in their lower legs

Other issues to watch out for in kids under five are flat feet, in-toeing/out-toeing, walking on their toes, poor coordination, and balance.

Learn more about how the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City treats kids foot problems here!

Dr. Rion Berg
Connect with me
A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
Join The Conversation
Hans Tay 10/13/2022 06:53 PM
Hi. Great article! My 5-year-old runs 5Ks with the family. Another trick which worked for us is to go for free events like Parkrun (Seattle area locations: Renton, Redmond, or Des Moines) which felt much more "chill" for the kids and parents alike just because we haven't paid good money into them and they happen every single week. (Hence much less pressure on the kids e.g. to complete the 5K or run the entire distance without walking, etc)
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Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City 05/03/2023 12:22 PM
Always good to know about events to help kids stay active.
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