I am a big fan of the Cardiff Kook race and I’ve run it each year for the last 4 years, including last year when I pushed Siena in the stroller and walk/ran the 5K 29 weeks pregnant with the twins! It’s in Encinitas, the city where I have lived for the last 8 years, and it starts and finishes under the iconic Encinitas sign on the 101. The course is the coastal one I’ve run hundreds of times and is absolutely beautiful. The big draw for this race is the 10K, as professional runners from all over the world come to compete. There’s also a 5K and this was the first ever year that there was also a FREE kid’s run that took place between the 10K and the 5K.
Siena is 3 1/2 and she’s been a part of my running since before she was born. I ran throughout my pregnancy with her, we’ve run countess miles together in the stroller, she’s been pushed in the stroller for a race a handful of times, she’s cheered for me on the side lines of races several times, and when she sees me lace up my running shoes she says, “Going for a run mommy?” There have been times that she’s put on my running belt and run around the house saying, “Look at me, I’m running!” Clearly, she’s taken note of my lifestyle as a runner and since she wants to be just like her mama, she’s interested (for now!).
We headed down to the race just about 20 minutes before it started and grabbed our bibs. Putting the bib on Siena was such a fun moment and she was so excited to put it on! Once we were ready to go, we stood near the start line. They had three divisions – one for 5-6 year olds, one for 4 year olds and one for 2-3 year olds. We got to watch the older kids run first which I think helped ease Siena’s nerves and get her ready for what was to come. She was very excited but also nervous (and so was I honestly!).
The course was a short out and back and they shortened it for each age group and they had a police motorcycle lead the pack which was pretty cool! When it was our turn to go, we raced off, basically staying just behind one boy who was happily running on his own. Siena wouldn’t let go of my hand and was holding it with BOTH of her hands the whole time but was also grinning ear to ear. She had a blast!
Now that I’ve run a race with a 3 year old, here are my tips for running with a preschooler:
Tips for Running a Race With a Preschooler
- Pick a race that is convenient. Don’t choose a race that takes place during nap time or that requires you to wake up your child super early and rush out the door. 2, 3 and 4 year olds thrive on routine and schedule and if you are throwing all of that off, you’re just asking for a melt down!
- Talk about the race in advance. We told Siena about the race about a week beforehand. We explained that she was gong to get her own race bib and medal and that she would run with other kids and that mommy would be there with her. We repeated this information over and over so that she knew what to expect on race day.
- Be there for them at the start line & run with them if they want you to. Siena wasn’t comfortable running alone. About half the kiddos in the 2-3 year old division ran with a parent and half were on their own. I knew Siena’s personality and was 99% sure she’d want me to run with her and she did. She ended up holding my hand with both her hands the entire time (I secretly knew she could have beat the first place kid has she let go…haha!).
- Don’t force them to run. You can’t force your love of running on your kids. If your kid is scared or just downright doesn’t want to race, then scrap it. It’s not worth it, even if you paid for the race. You want them to fall in love with the sport on their own – and they certainly aren’t going to do that if you’re forcing it. And they may never like it….that’s ok too!
- Celebrate with them! No matter how the race turns out – if they ran in circles, didn’t want to drop your hand, you carried them over the finish line, celebrate that they crossed the finish line and tell them you’re so proud of them! Siena was SO PROUD that she finished the race and got her own medal. It made me so happy!
As for MY race, I had a great time! I ran for fun but pushed myself and was pretty thrilled to run a 23:45 (7:39 pace) in the 5K and place 2nd in my age group! Overall my legs felt strong (which was surprising since I had done Transform:20 all week, which is a pretty intense workout!) and I felt solid. After the Carlsbad Half, I wasn’t super inspired to get back into serious training but after this race some inspiration crept back in. More on that later!
Have you ever run a race with your young child?