It’s so wrong, I don’t even know where to start…
Sara caught this outrageous story via the Fevered Mutterings blog: possibly the most overzealous case of parent coaching I’ve heard of (and I’ve seen plenty). The guy “encouraged” his eight-year-old daughter to run over 2,200 miles in two months. To do it, the BBC reports that the tiny girl had to rise at 2:30 a.m. and log 40 miles per daily stint – that’s a lot longer than a marathon for this 46-pound youngster. The purpose of decimating the healthy development of a prepubescent child? To raise publicity in the hopes of getting her into the Olympics…in 2016. The father claims that the girl simply loves running, although that’s not what the mother says (they split over the issue).
The girl has zero chance of getting into the 2016 Games because, if she lives that long, she will be too thrashed to run fast enough to be competitive. I’m all for kids running and being fit, but I focus on “play”. Marathon training is not “play.” It is very hard work. Her parents might think she likes it, but she’s just trying to please them. My son Kyle is 13. I encourage him to try all sports, which he does. But I haven’t begun to “train” him for anything because he is still growing (to that end, weight training shouldn’t start until a child’s well into the teen years). Marathon training and weight-training in the gym is inappropriate when a child’s growth plates are still expanding. Not to mention the effect that all that energy expenditure will have on this particular child’s female hormonal systems and brain development.
It’s child abuse, pure and simple. And it gets worse: a coach in New Delhi tortured a six-year-old boy in order to get him to complete a marathon – because there’s nothing so sweet as a Guinness World Record in child abuse. He’d already scared – and scarred – the boy into running 40 miles at age 4. In that event, doctors stopped the toddler from running the planned-on 43 miles because they found him to be on the verge of death – undernourished, anemic and nearing cardiac arrest.