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Flying Pig responds after allowing 6-year-old to complete full marathon

The decision has sparked confusion and controversy in local and national running communities.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 9:05 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Controversy followed the Flying Pig Marathon last weekend after a 6-year-old was allowed to run the full 26.2-mile race.

The 6-year-old’s family, numbering eight total, ran the race together and finished with the same time. The other five children are ages 11, 15, 17, 19 and 20.

The race has a posted age minimum of 18 years old.

Race organizers say they justified allowing the 6-year-old to race because the family has had a pattern of racing as so-called “bandits,” or racing without paying or following the rules.

Flying Pig Executive Director Iris Simpson Bush said in an open letter published Wednesday, “The intent was to try to offer protection and support if they were on our course (Medical, Fluids 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 race course.”

The open letter is reproduced in full below.

David Nelson has been a member of the Cincinnati Running Club since the ‘70s. He’s an avid local runner who believes a full marathon is too much for young children.

“I’m ok with young kids running 5ks,” he said Wednesday. “I see that occasionally. And a lot of these races have these kids runs. That’s ok too. But I just think a 6-year-old, even if you’re a kid prodigy, that’s too much.”

Nelson can only remember once he’s ever seen a young child run marathon distances. He says he’s glad race officials didn’t interfere and and feels the decision should be left up to the parents whether the child should run.

The story appears to have gotten national attention as well. Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympian and World Championship runner, offered the following via Twitter on Wednesday:

Flying Pig Executive Director Iris Simpson Bush’s 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 will always strive to do so.

“Please allow me to share reasons for the decision to allow a minor to participate in this year’s race. This decision was not made lightly because 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 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, Fluids 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 race 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.”

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