The kiddo controversy

  • This was printed in April of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 97th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

About 50 children 2 to 10 years old sprinted, jogged and walked around the LoanMart

Madera Speedway on Saturday for the Kids Mini Sprint hosted by the Second Wind 5K.

Parents snapped photos and cheered for their little ones as they participated in an active,

enriching activity.

Several kiddos ran the 5K (3.1 miles) later that morning, including brothers Dillon and

Morgan Gonzales, 12 and 11, who placed fifth and sixth overall, and Victor Jimenez, 12,

who placed seventh.

On Sunday, 10-year-old Koda Holeman, of Clovis, finished 29th out of 457 participants at

the Fresno Urban Run. The course included about a mile’s worth of stairs in Chukchansi

Park baseball stadium, up and down the spiral parking garage downtown, back and forth

over the Tuolumne overpass, and every stair inside of The Grand tower.

Koda at Urban Run

Koda Holeman, 10, at the Fresno Urban Run.

Koda is the youngest member of the San Joaquin Running Team; he was added after

becoming the youngest person to finish the San Joaquin River Trail Half Marathon last

month. He beat his mom, Jodi, by about seven minutes in the race.

When the Holemans picked up their race packets for the California Classic Half

Marathon two weeks later, Koda complained that his mom was “making him run the

relay with her.” Jodi got a lot of disapproving looks from strangers who probably thought

she was a bad mom for making her young son run an entire six and a half miles — until

Koda finished up by saying “I want to run the whole race (13.1 miles), not just half.”

Koda at SJRT half

Koda Holeman, 10, finishing the San Joaquin River Trial 1/2 Marathon

How far is too far for a child to run? How young is too young for them to begin running?

Dr. Patrick Burke, MD, at Valley Children’s Hospital, said children should be seen by

their doctor to evaluate their health, nutrition, development and growth before beginning

any new exercise.

Burke says the safest distances for children are “those commonly run competitively by

that age group.” Middle and high school students traditionally compete in races up to two

miles in track and field, and up to a 5K in cross country. Elementary school kids run

shorter distances.

While the risks of the sport are similar whether the runner is 10 or 50 — overuse injuries

being a top hazard — children and teens need more water and cooling during hot

temperatures than adults in the same condition need, Burke said.

In my opinion, a child should be allowed to run as far as they want to and are capable of.

Just like any other runner, they should start slow with short mileage and work their way

up as far as they desire. There’s a difference between encouraging your child and pushing

them beyond their limit. Let them set their own.

I share in Jodi Holeman’s philosophy and I’m as excited to watch Koda progress as I am

to watch my own little budding runners, Jazlyn, 5, and Isaac, 2 (who, as I write this,

asked me to take them to the nearby high school track to run some laps.)

Koda’s goals are to run a half marathon in 1 hour and 30 minutes, and run a 50K by the

end of this year. Jodi’s goals for him are simpler.

“For him to appreciate and learn the value of training as runner,” Holeman said. “I have

to remind myself that he’s 10, because I get excited for him and share in his enthusiasm,

but I’m also his mom and need to make good choices for him, even if it’s not what he

wants. It’s a fine line between letting him explore his potential and knowing the

limitations of a 10-year-old’s body.”

Koda loves to run trails, where there often isn’t help close by, so Jodi enrolled herself in

an EMT class to have more peace of mind when they run long distances together.

“He’ll also go in for a full physical soon just to make sure everything is working

properly,” she said. “I want to cover all my bases with him, but I don’t want to hold him

back. He loves to run and we both feel that his love for running is so infectious that other

kids will run, too.”

I haven’t even scratched the surface of this topic. I watched dozens of high school

students cross the line at the Modesto Marathon on Sunday, and I’m eagerly awaiting a

chance to race alongside siblings Teagan and Tajh Redden, ages 10 and 12, who are no

strangers to ultramarathons.

Look forward to future columns on this topic, and on another hot-button issue: running

while pregnant.

Jaz running Mini Sprint

My daughter, age 5, at Second Wind 5K.

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