“Any healthy and active child would likely be just fine with this type of race,” says Michael F. Bergeron, Ph.D., executive director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute. “You just need some smart preparation.”
Arm your son with comfortable running shoes; loose-fitting, breathable clothing; and sunscreen. To stack the cards in your child’s favor, select a run that begins in the morning so you avoid midday sun.
Also make sure he’s well rested, well nourished, and well hydrated before hitting the pavement. “This shows him that he needs to respect his body when asking it to perform,” says Dr. Bergeron.
Train slowly and in increments. Dr. Bergeron suggests jogging about a quarter-mile with your child at his pace, and then alternating that with some walking and another quarter-mile jog.
Up the distance over the course of a week or two until your child can jog a half-mile continuously. “Over time, progressively increase each interval’s distance until you reach 3.1 miles, the length of a 5K,” he says.
If at any point your kiddo is hurt or not having a good time, just stop. “Emphasize having fun and listening to your body — not winning, impressing others, or pushing through,” says Dr. Bergeron.