CINCINNATI — The Flying Pig Marathon is facing backlash on social media after addressing claims that a 6-year-old boy ran the full marathon.
A family of eight completed the full Flying Pig marathon together, according to a father's post on Instagram. The youngest family member is 6.
“This is the first marathon our entire family has run together," the father said. "Our five older kids waited for over an hour at mile 25 and after 8 hours and 35 minutes we all crossed the finish line together.”
The father said his 6-year-old son made it to mile 20 after 7 hours.
“He was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes,” the father said.
On the Flying Pig's website, it states "marathon participants need to be 18 years of age on race day." Many began asking the family why the Flying Pig would allow a child to participate and if that level of exercise was safe for a young child.
"A kid should not be running a marathon," one comment said.
Another called it "child abuse."
Pediatrician Dr. Christopher Bolling said there are some exercises that young children should limit to avoid overuse or injury.
"There are certain limitations on certain activities because they can affect growth," Bolling said. "They're a little bit higher risk for certain types of injuries."
Bolling said weightlifting and resistance training should be limited for children younger than 13. He said running is typically an exercise that is suitable for younger kids, but a full marathon is unusual.
"A marathon certainly sounds like a lot to do for a 6-year-old and not something that we usually recommend," Bolling said.
Other kids in the family ran the race in previous years, but unofficially. The father said the director of the race, Iris Bush, helped them all officially register this year. He said Bush told them not to worry about a doctor's visit because they seemed prepared.
The father posted on Instagram that all of their kids are always given the option to run every race.
“We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally,” the father said.
He said they would never put their son’s safety at risk.
“We asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop, and he was very clear that his preference was to continue,” the father said.
Iris Simpson Bush, a spokesperson for the Flying Pig Marathon, declined to talk on camera or answer any questions but issued an open letter on Thursday:
The Flying Pig Marathon takes the safety and security of all participants very seriously.
We receive numerous requests for special accommodations each year and carefully evaluate each. Our goal is to provide a positive race experience for all participants while supporting them along the course. The Flying Pig Marathon was founded on the ideal of hosting a world-class road race experience and we will always strive to do so.
Please allow me to share the reasons for the decision to allow a minor to participate in this year's race.
This decision was not made lightly. The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless. They had done it as bandits, in prior years, before we had any knowledge of it and we knew he was likely to do so again.
The intent was to try to offer protection and support if they were on our course (Medical, Fluid and Replenishment).
Our decision was intended for some amount of safety and protection for the child. The family finished the race after the formal closure of the course.
I assume full responsibility for the decision and accept that it was not the best course of action. Our requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed moving forward.