With screen time (and childhood obesity) on the rise, fitness is an increasing priority for families. Luckily, there are a growing number of kid-oriented races and courses that provide a fun incentive for families to get active together. Register for one of these events now and have a blast training together over the summer. Who knows? The process could set your children on a path of fitness and physical activity that could last a lifetime.
1. Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon & 5K
Sunday, June 26, 2016 | Vancouver, BC
Cost: $45–$120 (depending on when you sign up). Children ages 15 and under receive a 50 percent discount (valid for 5K only). Youth 16 to 19 receive a 25 percent discount.
Age: The 5K race has no age restrictions; kids must be at least age 16 for the half-marathon. No strollers allowed on the course.
Why this race? Destination races are a great way to explore a new place with your family, and enjoy some time together on a new running course. Seattle’s neighbor to the north kicks off summer with a half-marathon and 5K. The 5K course is in gorgeous Stanley Park; the half-marathon starts at UBC and finishes in Stanley Park, with eight music bands located at various points on the course and at the Finish Area party. This is a timed race and awards are given. If your child needs their medal, make sure you stick around to receive it. (Psst: Find top off-the-beaten track adventures in Vancouver for families with young kids.)
2. Fred Hutch Obliteride Kids Ride
Saturday, July 9, 2016 | Mercer Island
Cost: $20 for July 9 kids' ride (no fundraising commitment); $750 fundraising commitment for 10-mile family ride on Sunday, Aug. 14.
Age: Ages 3–13 for the kids' ride. For Obliteride, ages 3–9 with adult; junior riders ages 10–17
Why this race? Bike races are a great way to get outside with your kids, and this event allows families to raise money to fight women's cancer while spinning their wheels. Kids ages 3–13 can sign up for a one-mile kids' ride on July 9 (they can ride the loop as many times as they want) on Mercer Island, followed by a festive celebration. For more of a challenge, sign up the family for the Aug. 14 Obliteride; the 10-mile family ride around Lake Union lasts about an hour, which is perfect for families. Children 12-17 can ride solo, while children 10-11 years old can ride alongside their parent/legal guardian. (For the Aug. 14 race, all children under age 10 must be attached to a registered adult via a tandem or tag-along-bike.)
3. Bite Size Mud & Chocolate Race
Saturday, July 16, 2016 | Bellevue, WA
Cost: $30 for 3-mile trail run/ $10 for 5-mile Kids Dash
Age: All ages, but no strollers allowed
Why this race? If you ever needed motivation to get your family out into nature, this is the race for you. Trail running is not only easier on your legs, but can be loads of fun for the whole family. Participants can walk or run, and kids can enter the 3-mile or half-mile run, depending on energy levels. The non-technical trails are well marked and are a great way to introduce your family to trail running. Kids get a chocolate medal and those who finish the 3-mile run will receive a chocolate medal and a gourmet Seattle Chocolates bar. Everyone is welcome to partake in the chocolate finishers' table as well.
4. Kids Obstacle Challenge
Saturday, Aug. 13 | Issaquah, WA
Cost: $30 (advance); $40 (day of race) for one or two-mile course; $5 to re-run the course on the same day
Why this race? Would your children love the idea of scaling cargo nets, swinging Tarzan-style on ropes and crawling through mud? Sign 'em up for this kids-only race at Lake Sammamish State Park. The course is a 1- to 2-mile adventure course with 10–15 challenging and fun obstacles, including rope swings, cargo nets to climb and slides. Parents can run along (for free) and there is no charge to spectate. Kids must be between the ages of 5 and 16. Note: You must have a Discover Pass to park.
5. The Color Run
Sunday, August 14, 2016 | Tacoma, WA
Cost: $34.99–$54.99 adults; $14.99–$19.99 for runners under age 5; free for runners under age 5 who do not get a participant kit
Age: All ages
Why this race? With a claim that it's "The Happiest 5K on the planet," the Color Run has grown in popularity since it first started in 2011. Racers garbed in white shirts are doused with a new color every kilometer until they resemble something close to a rainbow at the end. In other words, a great excuse for kids to get active and messy. The Tacoma race starts at the Tacoma Dome. Note: Now the single largest event series in the world, the Color Run is not for the crowd-phobic.
6. Snoqualmie Railroad Days 5k/10k
Saturday, August 20, 2016 | Snoqualmie, WA
Cost: $30 for 10K/5K; $12 for Kids 1K
Age: 5K, ages 8 and up; 10K, ages 14 and up; 1K, kids under age 12
Why this race? Families looking for gorgeous views can find them on this 5 or 10K course in the Snoqualmie Valley, where participants are chip-timed and strollers are welcome. Run (or walk) by views of Mount Si and Meadowbrook Farm before you run to the finish line, cheered on by spectators headed to the Snoqualmie Railroad Days Parade. A non-timed 1K kids' run is offered for kids 12 and under. Parents are encouraged to run along side their little ones. All kids are giving a medal, but sign up quick. Registration is capped at 300 children. After the face, tour the Northwest Train Museum, take a train ride, get messy at the Kids' Paint Junction or wander the festival grounds.
7. Bubble Run
Saturday, August 27, 2016 | Everett, WA
Cost: $20–$50; kids under 4 race for free with fully paid adult registration
Age: All ages; strollers welcome
Why this race? Bubbles, colors, kids and outdoor fun — what more could an active kid want? Like The Color Run, this is an untimed race that is all about getting outside to run, walk, dance and play through a three-mile course, which winds through downtown Everett. Every kilometer, participants run through Foam Bogs, where there is enough color foam to cover your entire clan from head to toe. (Remind your kids not to eat the foam.)
8. Tough Mudder: Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder
Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 24 and 25, 2016 | Seattle, WA
Cost: $20 plus taxes and fees (bundle package for 2 mini Mudders + 2 spectator tickets for $50)
Age: 7–12 and over 3.5 feet tall
Why this race? This one-mile obstacle course mud run was designed for kids, and gives them the same thrill of adventure that their parents can get in the full Tough Mudder event. Crawl under fences, scale walls, swing on monkey bars and help each other get through the course. Best of all, your kids will love getting really, really muddy!
9. Burien Brät Trot
Sunday, October 2, 2016 | Burien, WA
Cost: Check website
Age: Open to all ages
Why this race? Combine your love of running with one of Burien’s best street parties. This flat 5k and or 1-mile kids' race around Lake Burien and through the neighborhoods ends with a daylong party dubbed “Bavarianfest.” Enjoy live bands, pretzels, beer gardens, food trucks, bouncy toys and loads of fun. Best of all, this race raises money to support Highline Schools Foundation for Excellence.
10. Seattle Beast Kids Race
Saturday, October 22, 2016 | Snohomish, WA
Cost: $28–$35 (includes two spectator passes)
Age: Ages 4–8 (Junior Varsity Spartan .5 mile kids' race); ages 9–13 (Varsity Spartan 1-mile kids' race)
Why this race? Let your kids run, jump and play their way through the safer kids' version of this beastly obstacle course at Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish. Typically, the organizers don’t let out any information about the adult race, although fire, mud, water, barbed wire and something they like to call “Hell on Earth” do show up. They like to throw racers a few curveballs, so if you are doing the adult race, expect to be challenged. Kids will be challenged too, but have more fun and stay safer while they are at it.
11. Seattle Children’s Kids Marathon
Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 | Seattle, WA
Age: 5-13 (kindergarten to 8th graders)
Why this race? Although it is not recommended that children under the age of 16 run a full marathon, Seattle Children’s has come up with a fun way to get your kids through the 26.2 miles. This isn’t just a one-day event, but like the race itself, it is a marathon of activities to get you to the finish line. About 6-8 weeks before race day kids start running, choosing distances of a mile or even half mile at a time. They track their mileage, along with the 13 books they read and the 13 good deeds they do, which are also required. Race day brings all kids' marathon participants together for the last 1.2 miles of their marathon down at Seattle Center.
Find a running coach for your family
Running is a great way to bond as a family, especially if one or both parents are passionate runners. Tony Williams, owner of and running coach at Seattle's Always Running offers weekend runs that are stroller friendly (kids can also bike along), so parents don’t have to ditch their kids every weekend to train.
Other running centers have family-friendly offerings. Beth Baker, owner of Running Evolution, offers a Couch to 5K class that is stroller-friendly, so parents of young children don’t have to hold off on their health and fitness goals.
Both Baker and Williams leave the door open for children to become more involved with their parents training, or to hold off until they are interested. They offer a discount to families who want to train together.
How do you know if your kid is ready? As Williams points out, “Kids have to want to do it.” You can’t force your child to become a runner, and a coach can tell right away if your child has a passion for it or not.
Note that children under the age of 16 are still growing, which can affect how they run and how much they should run. Schedule a talk with your child’s doctor before you start a training program for a long race with your child.