- 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,
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 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.”
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
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