How (NOT) to Help Your Kid Train for a One-Mile Running Race

By Andrew Kardon from Mommy’s Busy… Go Ask Daddy!



I hate running. I really do. My wife, however, loves it. She doesn’t seem to mind that crazy awful feeling that your lungs are about to pop like a balloon. She’s run a few 5Ks and even a half marathon. I love rooting her on and think it’s great inspiration for our kids.

My five year old, Ryan, is a typical boy who loves video games, action figures, and imaginative play. He’ll toss a football with me in the backyard for a good 10 minutes, but then he’s done. If things ever get too tough, he just gives up and moves on.

So when my wife signed up for a local 5K to benefit our neighborhood schools, she mentioned that there’s also a kids’ one mile race. Ryan said he wanted to sign up. Yeah, I think I fractured a tooth when my jaw hit the floor.

Knowing full well that Ryan’s one of those kids that will change his mind more times than a teenage girl changes her outfits, I didn’t expect him to follow through. We asked him multiple times, though, and he insisted he wanted to do it, so we signed him up.

About a month before the race, we figured Ryan should practice running to build up some stamina. So Ryan ran to the end of our street, stopping once or twice on the way. That was maybe 1/8th of a mile.

He was out of breath. He was winded. He was exhausted. But he still insisted that he could run the race.

“That was only 1/8th of a mile, Ryan. You’re going to have to do that roughly eight times in the real race. That’s a full mile,” we told him.

“A mile? That’s so short! That’s so easy!” was all Ryan kept repeating.

Despite his enthusiasm for competing, Ryan had zero motivation to practice running before race day. I thought that was evidence he was going to drop out. But the day of the race came and he woke up excited to compete. He had his bib number pinned to his shirt and was raring to go.

They lined  up all the participants in the kids race by grade, so the Kindergartners were herded into the back. I could actually taste my heart in my throat, I was so nervous. No way was Ryan going to finish this race without a complete breakdown or buckets of tears. If he made it over the first hill, I’d be impressed.

And then just like that, the race began. Ryan took off like a shot, with some serious determination in his eyes. Allie jogged alongside him as they ran off into the distance, up and over a hill.

I stayed behind with my older son Jason, just waiting. And waiting. And waiting.


Older kids started coming back down the hill to finish the race. More and more kids bounded down the road with smiles on their faces as they crossed that finish line. But there was no sign of Ryan.

Thoughts started racing through my head. Maybe he got hurt. Maybe he gave up and was crying hysterically at how hard it was. Whatever was going on, I was 100% convinced Allie would be coming over that hill any moment, carrying Ryan in her arms.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I finally saw him. Coming up and over the hill was Ryan. On his own two feet. Running with determination in his eyes. He was huffing and puffing but he gave it everything he had and ran across that finish line.


I could not have been prouder of the little guy. I squeezed him as hard as I could and told him how insanely proud I was of him for finishing the entire race! I was beaming.

We all learned an incredible lesson that day. It really has nothing to do with how fast you can run or what place you come in. It has everything to do with making a goal, believing in yourself (even when others doubt you) and achieving that goal. It’s all about determination and proving to yourself, above all else, that you are good enough and that you can do anything you put your mind to.

My little 5 year old somehow ran a mile. Just because he said he could. As for me? Maybe it’s time to stop saying “I can’t” and start saying “I can.” This weekend I’m going to find those old running shoes in the back of my closet and ask my wife if she’ll accompany me on a 1/8th mile jog to the end of the block.


9 thoughts on “How (NOT) to Help Your Kid Train for a One-Mile Running Race

  1. I love that picture of Ryan running! Great job, kid! But think of how much faster he could have ran had you provided him with a training montage like Rocky Balboa in Siberia in Rocky IV!

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  5. Great story and I love the images you chose to go with it. I’m a runner (running is my drug, truly), but I’m a pokey lil kitty, that’s for sure. I run at about a 8.5 min/mile pace – certainly not going to win me any medals. But, I can go and go and go and go and it centers my mind and helps lift my spirits if they ever dip below my usual exuberant attitude. Congrats to your precious boy and to your amazing wife for coaching him along.

    • Hello everyone I have been training my 5 year old nephew to compete in a one mile track race. I noticed he had a lot of energy and loves to run around alot ..I ran track back in the day and took alot of healthy classes so i fwel like I can coach pretty much anyone.Running is my passion so I thought I might pass that on to my nephew..Turns out he is a gifted runner with amazing form and stamina..the first week he ran his mile he hit 15:02 we are at 4 weeks training now and he just hit 10:48 ..I have a hard time keeping up with him on our hill runs and he recovers so fast…He has been doing way better at school and wakes me up to run and train.I wanted to thank you for posting your story since it reminded me a lot of my nephew..keep up the good work .

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