Parents Address Backlash After Completing Full Marathon with Their 6-Year-Old Son

In a lengthy post addressing the controversy, parents Ben and Kami Crawford responded to claims that they were "irresponsible and even abusive"

Family Faces Backlash After 6-Year-Old Son Joined Them to Run Marathon
Cami and Ben Crawford with their children, including 6-year-old son Rainier. Photo: Cami and Ben Crawford/Instagram

A mother and father came under fire this week after running a marathon with their entire family of eight, including their 6-year-old son. Now they're addressing the backlash.

On Sunday, Rainier Crawford joined his parents and five older siblings to participate in the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.

The race, which took him eight hours and 35 minutes to complete, was not without its challenges, and father Ben Crawford wrote on Instagram that Rainier "was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes."

When they got to mile 20 to find there were no more snacks, Rainier "was crying" and "moving slow," but the promise of getting him "two sleeves" of Pringles afterwards helped him cross the finish line, his father said.

The family's posts sparked a backlash, with several social media users accusing the family of child abuse and making the child run for Instagram likes. A number of professional runners expressed concern as well.

"I don't know who needs to hear this but a six year old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically," Olympic runner Kara Goucher wrote on Twitter. "A six year who is 'struggling physically' does not realize 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," Goucher added.

In a separate post, Australian Olympic marathon runner Lee Troop, who also called out the marathon itself for allowing the 6-year-old to run, wrote "​​everything about this is wrong!

ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Alok Patel shared additional concerns with Good Morning America.

"If a young child were to run a marathon, I'm worried about electrolyte abnormalities, nausea, vomiting, heatstroke, all these signs and symptoms that may not be that clear in a young child," Patel said.

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In a lengthy post addressing the controversy, parents Ben and Kami Crawford hit back at allegations that they were "irresponsible and even abusive."

"We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally," they wrote. "This year after begging to join us we allowed our 6 year old to train and attempt it."

"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 honored his request to keep on going," they added.

The boy's parents, who have a YouTube channel with over 46,000 subscribers, went on to deny forcing "our kids to run for the clicks or the money."

"Our videos make on average $10-$30 a day. It barely pays for the equipment," they wrote. "We go to great lengths to prioritize our kids' health and experience of the day over sharing it to anyone else."

As for "what happened on marathon day," the family wrote that "you cannot bribe a child to train hundreds of hours and run 26 miles through the heat for a can of pringles."

"Yes, negotiation and incentivization are parenting methods we use but these are used sparingly with care," they continued. "Our parenting methods are unconventional but we do not think accusations or arguments with incorrect facts are helpful. We're thankful to those who supported us on race day. It was an incredible experience and we can't wait to share more."

In response to a comment about how Rainier was doing, his family shared that the child was "feeling great" and had expressed interest in "running a half marathon" in the future.

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Amid the backlash, marathon organizers also released a statement, explaining why they made an exception to allow the child to race.

"This decision was not made lightly," wrote Iris Simpson Bush, president and CEO of the marathon's parent organization Pig Works. "The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless."

"The intent was to try to offer protection and support if they were on our course (Medical, Fluid and Replenishment)," Bush continued. "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."

Speaking with GMA on Friday, Rainier's dad said the fact that his son was able to finish the race was "pretty mind-blowing."

"We really care about our kids' emotional and physical health," added the boy's mom. "But we also care about their agency and if they want to do something, we, you know, assess the risks and figure out if it's okay."

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