Finish a 5K Run as a Family

A 5k run is a fun fitness option your entire family can share.

Family after a 5k run
My family after a 5K run, a color run on New Year's Day, with temperatures around 0 degrees F. Catherine Holecko

If you're looking for an active family project, a 5K run is ideal! It's accessible to almost everyone (including babies and toddlers in strollers, and sometimes even dogs), you can both train and race together, and being part of a community event is fun and motivating. Here's how to successfully run a 5K as a family.

1. Choose a Family-Friendly 5K Run

Some 5Ks identify themselves as family-friendly right in the name.

Others may well be accessible to families even if they're not advertised as such. Find out:

  • Are strollers allowed?
  • Are there time limits or age restrictions?
  • Is the run at a convenient time and place? Be especially mindful of too-early start times, or runs that fall during your child's naptime.
  • What is the giveaway or gimmick? If it's wine or beer, that's a sign to keep looking!
  • How much does it cost? Will three or four or five entries price you out? Is there a discount for kids?

2. Train for your 5K Run

By around age 8, most kids are capable of running a full 5K (three miles), but you know your child's strengths and limits best. If she is already active—swimming, biking, playing soccer, and so on, four or more days a week—she probably has enough endurance to go the distance. If not, work up to it together. A couch to 5K program can be very helpful. Don't run every day, and remember to keep drinking plenty of water, before, during, and after exercise.

3. Set Goals

Before the 5K event, talk about your family's plans and goals. Will you all stay together, or will some family members push ahead? If your child wants to try to speed up and reach a goal, that's fine. But never leave a kid behind before she's ready to be on her own.

4. Dress for Success

On the day of the 5K run, dress the kids in comfortable layers so they won't be too hot or too cold.

They should wear athletic shoes and socks that fit well and that aren't brand-new.

5. Be Prepared to Boost Morale

Three miles is a long way. So during the run, your kids might need a pep talk or two (or maybe the grown-ups will!). Have a stroller handy or take walking breaks if needed. There is no shame in that. Point out accomplishments along the way: "You've gone two miles already!" or "Look at that hill you just conquered!" Make small goals, like running to an upcoming stop sign or other landmark. Play games. Never push too hard, or you risk turning kids off for a long time to come.

6. Celebrate!

Did you finish? Way to go! Have snacks on hand in case the finish-line offerings are skimpy or not to your child's liking, or plan an outing to a favorite restaurant. Take pictures and share them. Talk up your child's accomplishment to anyone who will listen. Display his race bib or participation medal proudly (alongside your own!). Now you're ready to think about your next 5K run!

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