Thursday, November 15, 2012

Too Fast, Too Soon? Young Endurance Runners Draw Cheers and Concerns (NY Times)

The NY Times wrote a fascinating piece about Kaytlynn (12) and Heather Welsch (10), two sisters from Alvin, TX, who are quickly becoming stand-out stars of the trail running and triathlon circuits. They finished the XTERRA National Trail Run Championships just a few weeks after competing in the Junior Triathlon Championships, and have finished over 90 endurance races already.

(Kaytlynn Welsch, 12, center, and Heather Welsch, 10, before running more than 13 miles on a mountainous Utah course in September. Photo courtesy of Erik Szylard Daenitz for The New York Times)
It's seven pages of all the craziness you would expect...too much, too soon? Parents off their rockers? Doctors say it's okay? How do other runners react when they regularly break out into tears, or have a stuffed animal pinned to their shirt? And what if the kids say they love it?

Good stuff. Be sure to read the whole article here.

- SD


  1. I saw this article, and was particularly bemused by the pediatrician who scholded the father after a race. As a pediatrician, (ultra)runner, and parent I just don't think one can say what is appropriate for individual children/families. Clearly there is little or no evidence that this type of activity is detrimental. I would imagine that 20 +/week hours of gymnastics, figure skating, swiming etc have equal or greater effects than running. We see media celebration of this type activity. In an era where many children are sitting watching Disney movies and playing video games, I am tickled to see children out running. I just hope that these activities instill a lifelong love of running in these sisters.

  2. Hey Scott, I saw this article on Google + originally and I was surprised at some of the intense comments on both sides. I think I'd have to meet the family to make a judgment on whether the girls run for themselves, or if they "enjoy" running because their parents make them. Regardless, I think it's amazing what the girls have done so far.

    As a side note, I wonder if that pediatrician from the article scolds parents outside of McDonalds for feeding their kids fast food. It seems to me like childhood obesity is a much bigger problem in the US than adolescent overuse injuries from endurance running.

    Thanks for posting the article Scott. Great read!

  3. We've seen the damage that muscle workouts can do to children's growth - why isn't the same for endurance races like this? Too much, too soon.

  4. Dad comes across as a Whack Job. “You quit on us today?" Really? Guilt trip motivation? Get YOUR butt out there and see how it feels. As for the girls? Rock on! As long as they are monitored by doctors and take appropriate (in)action if an issue arises, I see no issues. Good for them.

  5. Unless the medical consensus says it's harmful I guess it's fine. Very impressive really. I'd be concerned if they're not getting enough calories. Kids don't always eat enough. Or if their bodies couldn't handle it; but it seems like they can. I'd be worried that they'd get burned out on running too. These young phenoms who have their parents pushing them year round often end up hating their sport. The dad reminds me of one of those tennis dads. The priority should be that the kids have fun. Chris Kelley - Framingham.

  6. Very impressive for someone so young to have that sort of commitment but you do need to ask whether the physical and mental stress is worth it at such a young age.

    You have a great site Scott, I work for and would love to make you one of our specially selected blog partners. It would be great if you could drop me an email: if you were interested. Thanks!

  7. I did my first half marathon at 14 and first full marathon at 15. I ran 3+ miles every day in junior high and high school, a long with volleyball practices. I sustained way more injury from volleyball than running but I thank running for preventing more injuries than I could have had.

    The only thing I can say is that I hope that they are taking good measures to prevent injuries, ie using good running technique and eating properly. Otherwise I think its great. I wish I had the money and family support to run that many events when I was younger. The events I did participate in taught me more life lessons than any video game or Disney show could ever teach me.


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