My daughter will complete a half marathon before she turns five

Isabel is four and on track for completing a half marathon – that’s just over 21km.

How, without being a child prodigy? Well, admittedly the 21km won’t be completed in one go – apologies for bending the truth a little there. But Isabel has completed 8 junior parkruns (each being 2km) and she’ll receive a ‘half marathon’ wristband after she’s run 11, which isn’t far off. Working towards a milestone reward is a great motivator to get her out and running in the fresh air on a Sunday morning (and for us, her parents) and it’s quite amazing how many running kms she’s clocked up from regular sessions.

You’re probably aware that I am a huge parkrun advocate, so am hoping this rubs off onto both my daughters (Emily is only 2 so a bit too young to join in yet although she spectates). junior parkrun is a great way to introduce athletics to a child. Young runners age 4-14 can participate in 52 junior parkrun events up and down the country, some held monthly and some weekly, always on a Sunday. Just like its parent organisation parkrun, it is slickly run by volunteers and totally free to join in. Children can actually run unaccompanied at junior events if they wish, and marshals line the route to ensure everyone’s safety.

All children seem to love tearing around, so joining in an organised running event where they can see the spectrum of participants is fantastic. It’s not a race, but it is amazing to see the first few home in about 7 minutes, which is impressive (faster than me, that’s for sure). Equally, Isabel can see that girls as well as boys, of all abilities, apply themselves and get to the finish funnel amidst cheers and claps.

When Isabel starts complaining that her legs hurt, she’s thirsty or cold, or wants to stop, I try to explain why it hurts – because it is making her fitter, stronger and healthy. She already understands that coming first/last is not the yardstick, and showing commitment, endurance and grace (i.e. not broadcasting when she overtakes another child, but still enjoying the sense of achievement) is what counts.

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Warming up at Bushy Park

We usually run at Bushy Park, Greater London and have also visited Savill Garden in Berkshire. This week we were amongst a lucky handful who trialled the brand new Moormead event in Twickenham (Greater London), and we met some heroes such as the parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE, and other parkrun ambassadors.The official launch is next week, and I’m sure the team will create a fantastic event and we will become regulars!

The parkrun ethos is all about runners being measured against the clock, not other runners. When I receive a post-run text notifying us of Isabel’s time, it’s exciting to read ‘congratulations on a new PB’ – jubilance and motivation to come back for another run (although Isabel still seems to think ‘getting’ a PB means she will receive something tangible, like a post-run party bag with balloon and cake). And if she doesn’t get a PB it’s not a big deal either. I’d much rather see her run slower, with a smile.

She’s enjoying a sport that all sorts of people can partake in, and it hardly costs us a penny. Apart from suitable running shoes, anything goes really – even Hello Kitty shorts with a glittery top. As most parents know all too well, you have to pick your battles.

Isabel can’t wait for her half marathon wristband, although it is blue... and her favourite colour is orange, but she will have to complete an ultra-marathon for that one! We’ll get there 🙂

Further information

Children can also run the regular 5km parkrun events but under 11s must be accompanied by an adult the whole time. You can find your nearest junior parkrun on the website.

junior parkrun milestones:

11 junior parkruns – Blue band (Half Marathon)
21 junior parkruns – Green band (Marathon)
50 junior parkruns – Orange band (Ultra-Marathon)

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