Mini marathoners

In a few hours the leaders in today’s Boston Marathon will be approaching the finish, leaving miles of cheering fans, and other runners, in their wake. The crowd at the finish line is always a mob scene, which goes to show that the sport is widely popular, even if you don’t hear about it in the media very often. And that popularity is on the rise, especially with kids. Membership in USA Track & Field’s 10-and-under category is over 16,000 strong; I even found triathlons for 7-year-olds.

Considering how prevalent childhood obesity has become, many people welcome running’s recent popularity boom. It’s a good workout, and unlike many organized sports, it can be done cheaply, with as many or as few participants as are available, any where in the country. For more on this growing trend among young runners, check out this video and excerpt from a recent Boston Globe article that features, Pierre d’Hemecourt, MD director of primary care sports medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston and avid runner.

As interest grows, Pierre d’Hemecourt, director of primary care sports medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, regularly hears from parents asking about appropriate distances for different age groups.

“There is no real solid data on that,’’ said d’Hemecourt, who is a runner himself, “but there is a lot of speculation.’’ Children ages 8 to 10 can generallly build up to running 3K races and possibly 5K races, he said, and kindergartners should be fine in distances as long as 100 to 200 meters. “The key is to keep it fun and to stimulate an active lifestyle that will persist.’’

A proponent of the sport, he said parents should keep an eye out for activity-related pain that lasts for a few weeks, such as shin or heel pain, and take children to a doctor if discomfort persists beyond that. He also cautioned against running in severe weather. “Kids have less of an ability to handle heat and cold than adults,’’ he said.

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