A Cincinnati family is facing criticism for allowing their six-year-old son to run in a marathon. Rainier Crawford joined his parents and five siblings for the 26.2-mile Flying Pig Marathon last weekend.
Crawford's dad, Ben, shared photos from the race on Instagram, keeping people updated on their progress. He described how the young boy struggled near the end of the race, especially when they discovered that a table that handed out snacks to runners had closed.
"On the marathon course, Rainier knew they usually hand out Pringles around mile 20. He was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes. After 7 hours, we finally got to mile 20 and only to find an abandoned table and empty boxes. He was crying and we were moving slow so I told him I'd buy him two sleeves if he kept moving. I had to promise him another sleeve to get him in the family pic at the finish line," Ben wrote on Instagram.
After eight hours and 35 minutes, the entire family finished the marathon and crossed the finish line together.
As the Instagram post went viral, many people thought it was dangerous to allow such a young child to run a grueling 26.2-mile race.
"I don't know who needs to hear this but a six year old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically. A six year old does not understand what embracing misery is. A six year who is "struggling physically" does not realize they have the right to stop and should," two-time Olympian and long-distance runner Kara Goucher wrote on Twitter.
Race organizers defended their decision to allow the young boy to race, claiming they knew the family would let Rainier join them no matter what. Iris Simpson Bush, a spokesperson for the Flying Pig Marathon, wrote an open letter explaining they wanted to ensure they could "offer protection and support if they were on our course."
"Our decision was intended for some amount of safety and protection for the child. The family finished the race after the formal closure of the course," Bush said, noting that the race will no longer allow exemptions for runners under the age of 18.
The Crawford family defended their decision, speaking to Good Morning America.
"I have watched him grow, and I've talked to him and made sure this is actually something he really wants to do and then made sure that he had all the support he needs and that he could quit anytime," Kami Crawford, Rainier's mom, said. "I never wanted him to feel like he has to do this."
"We really care about our kids' emotional and physical health. But we also care about their agency and if they want to do something, and we, you know, assess the risks and figure out if it's OK," she added.