With the 2009 ING New York City Marathon approaching, there is much excitement in the air! Especially for those who have been feverishly training for running quite a long distance!
We see adults, both women and men, completing marathons, but did you know that children have been able to defeat all odds, compete and set world records as well? It is not a well-known fact that children have participated in and completed marathons ... and quite an amazing feat it is! It is challenging enough for adult bodies to push themselves to make it through the 26.2 miles of constant exercise, whether running or walking or any combination of those two known (for some others of us it may also involve crawling towards the end!)... can children do that? Should children do that?
Since 1988 there have been teenage runners that are officially allowed to compete in marathon running (minimum 18 years of age) but the New York Times recently featured 3 preteens, 2 years before this minimum age regulation came to place. The article entitled 'Children of the Marathon Recall a Forgotten Time' shares with its readers the fascinating story of these boys who did accomplish a grand goal and now as young men, their opinion about this experience.
Interestingly enough, the three took on running and training as a chance to spend more time with their fathers. And running also proved to be a smart way to channel pent-up, active-boy energy. They received much support from their parents; not pushed or forced but a stated desire to reach a particular goal was not shunned by the parents but encouraged and supported. Once they said they were done with running, so were the parents. To this day, these three boys, now men and fathers, have accomplished many great things in life.
The verdict is still out and there is still much debate among physicians and trainers as to whether or not such an activity is recommended for children 'in the short and long run' (literally). Perhaps there may be injuries such as overuse or repetitive use injuries that may be aggravated over time since these young athletes appear to start earlier in life to be active and to choose their sport?
What does running marathons have to do with childhood obesity? Much. Actually, exercise, running or any other sport is related to the obesity epidemic. -- the more active, the less likely children and teens are to be overweight or obese.
Encourage your child to be active. Be alert to activities and exercise that they are especially interested in. Support them to be the best they can be. Help to facilitate the discipline required through proper coaching -- not only to lead them to a healthy lifestyle but to help them excel in their chosen activity or sport. The satisfaction and boost in self esteem that come with a child being proud of oneself in the athletic realm are both fulfilling psychologically, emotionally, and educationally thereby becoming tremendous deterrents of obesity both in childhood as much as adult life.