Controversy sparked on social media, as six-year-old boy reported to have run a marathon

·4-min read
Photo credit: Twitter @RunFlyingPig
Photo credit: Twitter @RunFlyingPig

Reports that a six-year-old boy ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Ohio on Sunday has caused public outcry.

Rainer Crawford, Rainer ran with his parents Ben and Kami Crawford and five siblings, including his 11-year-old sister Fillia.

His parents have been accused of being irresponsible and abusive on social media, and face backlash for bribing their son to keep moving.

His parents posted on Instagram that Rainer had been ‘struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes.’ They continued: ‘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 [of Pringles] if he kept moving.’

In response to criticism, his parents published a further post to ‘lay out facts for the publish conversation’. They said: ‘We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally.

They went onto explain that Rainer had wanted to run the race and they had granted him the opportunity to do so: ‘This year after begging to join us we allowed our six-year-old to train and attempt it.

‘Both parents gave him a 50/50 chance of completing it and were ready to pull the plug at any moment if he requested it or if we viewed his safety at risk. We asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop, and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue. We did not see any sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration and honoured his request to keep on going.’

In the post, the parents also responded to reports from other runners taking part who had said they had seen Rainer crying on multiple occasions. ‘Yes there were tears. He had a fall and every single member of our family has cried during marathons. These experiences were very limited compared to what has been reported and despite the incredible physical and emotional difficulty of running a marathon the amount of his crying is comparable to what we would have experienced had we stayed home on a Sunday morning.’ You can read their full statement here.

Race organisers are also under fire for allowing Rainer to enter in the first place, as well as for allowing his three siblings who are under 18 to enter. Indeed, organisers had broken its own rule which stated that only participants aged 18+ could enter the Flying Pig Marathon.

However, in response to the criticism, race director Iris Simpson Bush published an open letter yesterday assuming full responsibility for their decision. It said:

‘Please allow me to share reasons for the decision to allow a minor to participate in this year’s race.

‘This decision was not made lightly because the father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless. They had done it as bandits in prior years before we had any knowledge and we knew he was likely to do so again.

‘The intent was to try to offer protection and support if they were on our course (Medical, Fluids and Replenishment).

‘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 race course.

‘I assume full responsibility for the decision and accept that it was not the best course of action. Our requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed moving forward.’

The story has gained wide-spread attention, with pro distance Kara Goucher among those to post their condemnation on social media. She said: ‘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 realise they have the right to stop and should.

‘I'm not questioning motivation or saying it is bad parenting. But as an Olympic athlete, I promise you this is not good for the child. Children are children. Let them run around, but as the parent you need to protect their growing bodies and their young minds.’

Ben and Kami Crawford have undertaken gruelling endurance challenges with their children before. In 2020, they published a book about being the largest family to hike the Appalachian Trail and have gained a large following on social media.

Ben Crawford has since posted on his Facebook that ‘they are going to lock down some of our socials for a while… Too much hate and dissension. Going to wait a week and see if it dies down.’

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