CINCINNATI — The parents of the 6-year-old boy who ran the entire Flying Pig Marathon spoke about the backlash they've been facing from people across the nation.
Rainier Crawford, 6, crossed the finish line in 8 hours and 35 minutes along with his two parents and five siblings, ages 11-20.
The backlash started when social media posts surfaced from the race.
“This is the first marathon our entire family has run together," said father Ben Crawford in an Instagram post. "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.”
According to his father's post, Rainier was physically struggling, crying and wanted to sit down.
The family did not respond to WCPO but the entire family, including Rainier, appeared for an interview with Good Morning America Friday. According to parents Kami and Ben Crawford, running the marathon was each child's individual decision and no one was forced to do anything they didn't want to do.
"We really care about our kid's emotional and physical health and we would never want to do anything that would harm them," mother Kami Crawford said.
Ben said the reaction online has been really scary.
"I think people have a really hard time imagining a world where a 6-year-old would choose to run a race instead of just being forced," Ben said, "people are afraid of what they don't know."
Both parents agreed that all their children, including Rainier, got the support they needed.
"I have watched him grow and I've talked to him and made sure this is actually something he really wants to do and then made sure that he had all the support he needs and that he could quit anytime," Kami said. "I never wanted him to feel like he has to do this."
Two-time Olympic long-distance runner Kara Goucher was one of the many who criticized the family. "A 6-year-old who is struggling physically does not realize they have the right to stop and should."
In the GMA interview, Rainier was asked about his training process.
"We run to the Purple People bridge and then we do a time rating and then when I am done with that I get a candy," Rainier said. "Some of the training was, like, hard but I falled sometimes but sometimes when I did run it was, like, normal."
Other kids in the family ran the race in previous years, but unofficially. The age limit for the race is technically 18. Ben 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.
Iris Simpson Bush, a spokesperson for the Flying Pig Marathon, declined to talk on camera or answer any questions but issued an open letter:
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.
Iris said The Flying Pig will strictly enforce the age limit for runners going forward.