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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 28 2007

Training in Child Abuse

By Mark Sisson
11 Comments

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.

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11 thoughts on “Training in Child Abuse”

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  1. This is child abuse pure and simple. It is amazing the length people are willing to travel to gain some sort of notoriety. Let children run while playing. Exercise is great, but to much is detrimental and can sometimes be fatal.

  2. Aye.

    The father’s claim is a very messed-up one: that his daughter ‘loves to run’, and that’s why he’s doing it.

    Children also love chocolate. But you don’t consequently feed a child 20 kilos of chocolate a day because he/she enjoys it (at least enjoys it at first). Parents *are in charge*. Their job is to know best. And their responsibility is towards someone who is too young and impressionable to have a will of their own. So they’re 100% culpable. ‘Loves to run’…..agh.

    (I see this as an offshoot of a very controversial issue in the UK at the moment: how many parents are choosing to treat their children as ‘little adults’ instead of children, but doing so for selfish reasons that aren’t in the child’s best interests. Lots of newspaper articles back and forth on this hot topic).

    Even in the *very* unlikely event this girl doesn’t suffer developmental damage…..what happens to her childhood, if she’s in training all the time, which surely up to this point she must have been? That kind of damage – that kind of abuse – rarely has a chance of healing….

    …..

    And then I read the story about the 6 year old in Delhi. Just….vile.

    Some adults shouldn’t be allowed near children. Period.

  3. It is good that the Chinese media and public have been critical of the father pushing his daughter. Let’s hope Chinese authorities put a stop to this abuse. Disgusting to see dad riding a bike while his 8-yr-old daughter runs. Why doesn’t he get off his a** and run, too?

  4. There is all kinds of abuse and unrealistic expectations. Despite the intentions, the child will grow up to resent their parents.

  5. Absolutely appalling. I hate to see parents pushing their kids to live the dreams that the parents didn’t. They want their kids to be big stars so they can live vicariously through them.

    Scott Kustes
    Modern Forager

  6. NO parent should ever try and force a child to go overboard. I always encourage children to be active in sports, BUT, that’s a healthy thing. To take interest in some sort of sport is to teach them some sort of exercise, ( to run and play.) A Child needs to learn who they are, no parent should try to decide for them who they are. Each child needs to “find” him or her self. Every child needs to live their childhood, because, they grow up too fast before our eyes and if they enjoy a healthy childhood, then, they grow up to be ready for adulthood.

  7. For every Tiger or Williams sister, I’m sure there are thousands of youths turned off and/or destroyed by this type of training at such an early age. But the media is proud to proclaim those few successes making parents think their child will be the next.

  8. That’s sick and disgusting. I hope that “dad” get’s thrown in prison. Or better, make HIM get up at 2:30 in the morning and run 40 miles. Sick bastard.