Tips for Running a 5K with Kids

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Have your kids expressed an interest in running? If so, take advantage of it! Here are a few tips for running a 5K with kids, especially young ones!

santa run 5K

This is the picture of a kid who just finished her first 5K. She’s pretty pumped, and I’ll admit, I was pretty excited for her too. You see, I’ve been running for 20+ years. I ran track in junior high then took on other “extra-curricular” activities that took me away from running for a few years. In my 20’s, I found running again. It’s my stress-reliever, it’s my alone time, it’s a lot of things to me.

So you can imagine how elated I was when my daughter said she wanted to run this race.

B had run a few times, mainly laps around neighborhood, which never amounted to more than a few miles. I really thought we would run/walk the race, but that girl dug deep, and ran the entire way. We both smiled the entire way home. I was proud of her for putting in the effort, she was proud of herself for finishing the race.

tips for running a 5k with kids

That was last December. Fast forward to last weekend, where B ran her second 5K. This time, she put it out in the universe that she wanted to finish in the top 3 in her age group. Like all good parents, we told her if she wanted to do well in the race, it would take practice, or training, and she would have to put in the time. No different from her basketball or soccer practices. She did training runs, and some of them were rough, but in the end, her tenacity paid off and she finished 1st in her age group out of 28 kids.

running 5k with kids

Not every kid wants to run, heck many adults I know don’t want to, BUT if your child has an interest in running, here are a few tips that for running a 5K with them.

tips for running a 5k with kids Pick A Race Together

The first race B and I ran together was called the Santa Run. There were several Christmas themed races that day, and I opted for the race that would be fun (there was a costume contest) but small, so she wouldn’t get overwhelmed with all the people. An additional benefit, every participant received a medal. Not a big deal for me, but for her? Best. Thing. Ever.

Her next race was sponsored by the Girl Scouts. She’s a Girl Scout, so it made sense. PLUS, every one who entered received a box of Thin Mints. Whether it’s dressing up in costumes, getting great swag, or the post-race activities, find a race will be fun for your child, and for you.

Make Training For the Race FUN

Go for a run with your kid before the race. Make it fun for them. On B’s training runs, I played her favorite songs while we ran. Our neighbors probably wondered why Eye of the Tiger or All or Nothing was blasting from my iPhone. The main reason? It distracted her when the running became hard. She focused on the music instead of the running. Sometimes she ran sideways, sometimes she skipped. As long as we didn’t make it feel like “work,” she enjoyed herself.

Let Your Child Set The Pace

More than likely, their legs are much shorter than yours. While they might have more initial speed than you do, it won’t last. They’ll slow down, and maybe walk. Not a big deal. During our first 5K, I told B that I would follow her pace. At one point, I unintentionally pushed the pace a bit, and she called me out on it! The only time I recommend adjusting their pace is if they start a race out too fast. I’ve been guilty of getting caught up in the moment and starting off way too fast. That only leads to fatigue and frustration later on. Especially for children.

Celebrate With A Special Reward

I’m not a big proponent of the participation medals. Sure, I like to see my daughter’s teams win, but I’m more interested in how much effort she put forth. When B placed first in her age group, her greatest reward was getting her medal during the rewards ceremony. She was proud of her accomplishment, which was evident by the permanent smile on her face. It was even bigger when she realized not everyone received a medal. You know your child best. Pick a special reward they’ll remember.

running with kids
Running can be a great activity to do as a family. Take it slow, make it fun, and cherish those moments together. It may sound cliche, but it’s not about the race, it’s about the journey. I’ll never forget running with B in the rain, listening to Fight Song six times in a row, or having my neighbor (jokingly) threatened to call SRS on me when my little drama queen “collapsed” at the end of her run. It’s all about the journey.

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.


  1. I love it! I recently ran a 5k with my kids and my husband. We all had a wonderful time.

  2. This is great information. It’s always a good idea to do physical activities like this with the kids to get them interested in physical activity. Thank you for sharing these.

  3. Oh wow, great work guys! Your daughter’s training really did pay off. Running together as a family sounds fun!

  4. These are great tips. I know several people who have done races with their kids!

  5. Running sounds like an awesome way to bond with your kids. My niece is running her first 5K soon and is really pumped about it!

  6. Kim Croisant says:

    Good for her!!! I can’t even get my son to walk around the block with me…something has got to give here. I’m going to have him read this…maybe that will inspire him.

  7. This is a great post to help those who are going to run a 5k with kids. I walked a 5k with my oldest once, she won’t do it again LOL We just aren’t running type, but walking a 5k is fun too. I love that kids can do 5K’s, I had no idea until we saw one that said kids too. Now I think this is the perfect way to teach giving back and staying active as most 5Ks are for charity!

  8. This is something I would definitely love to do with my family! 5k can be challenging but it’s something I’d like to try.

  9. Big congrats to her for finishing first. I think it’s awesome that she ran.

  10. Great tips! It is so nice to see kids participating in athletic and charitable events with their family.

  11. This is definitely something I want to add to my family’s bucket list. I am not much of a runner, but my family loves adventure and new things. I think that running would push us to do new things, and maybe going new places.

    • It definitely can! I’ve done a lot of destination races. My first time visiting San Diego was to run a marathon and since then, I make it intentional to travel to running events.

  12. 5k runs are fun. I do it with my husband at least once a year. We need to pick up again on it!

    • They definitely are! There are so many fun themes, and raising money for some great organizations is a plus. I’m also a fan of post race snacks! 🙂

  13. Brianne says:

    I love that you did this with your daughter! I hope to run with my girl one day!

    • I love that we can do this activity together. I told her if she could run a 5K we’d do a Disney run someday. Guess I have to follow through now!

  14. Our Family World

    I don’t take up running but I do have a cousin who does marathons like this with her kids. I will share this post with her. I think making the kids choose the marathon they want to participate in is good advice.

  15. I never thought of this before. I would love to run with one of my kids or all four of them someday. I think it’s a beautiful thing to experience together.

  16. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s nice to do something with your kids that will strengthen your relationship while you also have fun. Here’s to more runs for you both!

  17. Michelle Waller says:

    My daughter has been hoping to run a 5k race! I am going to have to follow these tips and get them ready!

  18. Annemarie LeBlanc says:

    Oh my goodness. Reading this post made my mind wander back to those days when I was a teenager. My parents were fitness buffs. Every Sunday afternoon, we’d go to a park that has a trail for joggers/runners. Of course, me and my siblings HAD to tag along. I would run one lap and then slow down my pace and when they were out of sight, I’d run to the food trucks! Haha. Anyway, your post has really good tips for families that run. I am sharing this with my cousin. They regularly run and join marathons.

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