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Races That Can Turn Into A Family Affair

Military wife and mom of two Ashley Graf Davis offers tips on family-friendly races that parents and kids of all ages can enjoy.

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Ashley Graf Davis

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH

Military wife and mom of two, Ashley Graf Davis has always loved running—even though a fractured hip forced her to take a timeout after finishing her first marathon. The now 29-year-old went to rehab and had her babies before coming back to the sport in full force. Since then, she’s qualified and run the Boston Marathon and finished three Ironman triathlons. Find out her race picks for making running a family affair, along with tips and gear to keep your kids running happy.

Related: 6 Ways To Get Your Kids Involved With Marathon Training

Will Run for Ice Cream

Book a trip to Texas for the Blue Bell Fun Run, the beloved ice cream brand’s 5K, 10K and kids’ 1-mile run held every spring. Strollers and dogs on leashes are allowed on the course for the longer races, and there is no time limit. This is one of the most convenient races I have ever run. There are even showers available to freshen up before hopping back in the car. Every runner earns all-you-can-eat Blue Bell treats after the race.

April 2018, Brenham, TX

Go the Distance

If you live near or are traveling to an area that hosts an Ironman triathlon, odds are the event weekend includes an IronKids race, too. Kids from 3 to 14 can choose to run a half-mile or 1-mile race. Either way, they receive an IronKids race T-shirt, bib, goodie bag and finisher’s medal. They even get to run through the official Ironman arch. Be warned: If Mom is racing the next day, they might just wonder why it’s taking her so long.

Multiple dates, various worldwide cities

Most Magical Run on Earth

You can’t talk about family-friendly races without mentioning RunDisney events. The parks have distances appropriate for every age, from a diaper dash for the littlest crawlers to a 1-mile for preteens–plus longer options for kids-at-heart. Disney pulls out all the stops to make the children’s races feel just as official as the grown-ups’ events. Little speedsters earn cute rubber medals and post-race snack packs at the finish. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Disney event if there weren’t characters dishing out high-fives! My kids proudly wear their race T-shirts and play with their medals for months after the race.

Multiple dates, Orlando, FL and Anaheim, CA

Run the Bases

Make your tiny sports fan’s dreams come true at the Giant Race. Major League Baseball teams around the country host races that let runners storm the field. Most have a 5K option with a generous time limit. The San Francisco Giants offer short events for children that are entirely contained on the field at AT&T Park. Race distances are age-appropriate and a family relay 5K is also available.

Aug. 27, San Francisco, CA

Dirty Dash

Part of the reason obstacle races have grown in popularity is that runners want to feel like kids again. So it’s no surprise children love this stuff too. Spartan Kids’ goal is to encourage a love of adventure at a young age, making video games pale in comparison to exploring the outdoors. Kids get to climb over walls, jump through tires and splash through mud pits. Parents are allowed to accompany their youngest ones. In the older divisions, camaraderie comes naturally as the kids help each other through each obstacle.

Multiple dates, various U.S. cities

Be That Parent

Make their races a big deal! Bring kids along for packet pickup, dress up with them, make them a special pre-race breakfast and let them choose what to do for their post-race celebration. Now is the time to be the embarrassing parent. Make some signs, bring the cowbells and cheer your heart out when they cross the finish line.

Gear Up

Help your kids look the part. Target and Old Navy carry children’s activewear, and you can find kids’ running shoes from most major brands like ASICS and Brooks. They’ll love feeling like a “real runner” just like you!

Train Together

If you let your kids be part of your running journey, they’ll be far more eager to have their own. Make an effort to occasionally bring them along in the stroller, have them ride their bikes alongside you or even run with you for a short, easy run.