So Your Kid Wants To Run a 5K …

A Colorado Springs running coach offers her smartest tips



Lisa Rainsberger knows a thing or two about running. The former All-American at Michigan won the Boston Marathon (once) and Chicago Marathon (twice) and now heads up Colorado Springs-based, where she focuses mainly on coaching youth. “Running attracts a special kind of kid, one who knows how to suffer and can tolerate the discomfort of running until it no longer hurts and is fun and enjoyable,” she says. We asked Rainsberger for her best tips for parents of eager runners. Time to lace up!

1. Make it fun.

  • “If your child is saying, ‘I want to do this!’ start with a fun run you do with them. And don’t put any expectations on it, like ‘You need to beat a half-hour’ or ‘You need to beat your mom.’”

2. Participate in a race series.

  • “Look for small trail running series of about a half-mile distance. The Pike’s Peak Roadrunners, for example, have very small fun runs; one’s even a diaper dash.”

3. Train.

  • “Make sure your child has a comfortable pair of running shoes—places like the Colorado Running Company specialize in youth footwear. And practice with your child ahead of time. Maybe start by running three minutes nonstop, then stop to walk, then run two minutes, so you can see how fit they are. And make sure they have a pre-workout and post-workout snack.” 

4. Fuel them up.

  • “On the day of a race, make sure your child eats the right kind of breakfast. Kids burn calories like crazy. If a race starts at 9 a.m., your child should get up a couple of hours ahead and have 300 to 500 calories’ worth of mild foods like oatmeal or toast and peanut butter. If your child says, ‘I’m not hungry,’ suggest a smoothie and then put some egg whites into it to provide protein.”

 5. Motivate.

  • “I would highly recommend that you run alongside on your child’s first 5K, or have a friend go with them. It helps to be there if your child says, mid-race, ‘I can’t finish.’ Distract them by pointing out the funny outfit of the runner in front of you. Or minimize the length of the race by saying, ‘See that next stop sign? Let’s make it there.’ And if they are tired, tell them it’s OK to slow down or walk.”

6. Stre-e-e-t-t-c-h.

  • “It’s important that kids develop good stretching habits. Watch kids on a playground; they are in constant motion, using every part of their body. We try to maintain that with our young runners, including incorporating little yoga sessions into our workouts. For our younger runners—7, 8 or 9 years old—the longest we have them work out is 30 minutes, including a warm-up, a small workout and a cool-down.”

This Golden race includes a kid-friendly 1-mile run. March 18

2. HOPPIN’ HAL Try the Kid’s Cottontail Fun Run at Stapleton’s Central Park. March 31

3. FLYING PIG 5K The Piglet Walk for kids is part of this Fort Collins benefit race. April 8

4. COLOR VIBE 5K Head to Fort Collins for this family-friendly event. April 13

5. HEALTHY KIDS RUNNING SERIES This five-week program for kids pre-K to eighth grade takes place Sundays in Aurora and includes a 50-yard dash up to a 1-mile run. Starting April 15

6. CHERRY CREEK SNEAK Compete in a kids’ fun run or the 5K run/walk at this annual race. April 22

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