Six-year-old marathon runner sparks controversy
The boy is believed to have taken part in the Flying Pig Marathon with his family
A six-year-old boy's family have caused controversy in the American running community and among parents after he appeared to have completed a marathon on Sunday.
According to local reports, the youngster finished Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon in eight hours and 35 minutes, but many have questioned whether the feat should have been allowed to happen in the first place.
The Crawford family from Bellevue in Kentucky insist that their son was not forced into doing the marathon, but they did allow him to attempt the race while keeping a close watch on the boy.
Despite Ben and Kami Crawford's protests that their son took part in the race willingly, though, other participants claimed to have spotted him crying on the 26-mile run and an Instagram post from the family sees a young boy being rewarded with Pringles for persisting in the race and admissions that he cried.
"He was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes. After seven hours, we finally got to mile 20 only to find an abandoned table and empty boxes," the family wrote, as the boy knew that Pringles were usually given out at that particular mark.
"He was crying and we were moving slow so I told him I'd buy him two sleeves if he kept moving. I had to promise him another sleeve to get him in the family pic at the finish line. Today I paid him off," concluded the supermarket update.
The Crawfords have six children and are a physically-active family who have written a book on being the largest family to hike the Appalachian Trail while boasting 46,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel.
They also have a considerable social media following, and a separate deleted post on Instagram saw them mention "a story about race registration and breaking the rules".
The Flying Pig requires participants to be 18 or older, so it is unclear how the Crawfords were able to bypass this though race organizers say each case is individual.
Organizers also said Crawfords have participated for years with or without their permisson making it better to have them registered so that they could get full on-course support.
Of the Crawfords' children, aged six to 20, four of them are under 18. In the deleted post, the family talked about running the Flying Pig Marathon for years as their kids ran unofficially and they even thanked a race organizer for helping the entire family "navigate around the rules".
News of this development and the six-year-old boy running the 26-mile marathon has sparked outrage and debate on his safety, with hundreds of comments made on The Flying Pig marathon's statement on the matter.
"We receive numerous requests for special accommodations each year and carefully evaluate each one," read the statement in question. "Our goal is to provide a positive race experience for all participants while supporting them along the course."
On Instagram, the Crawfords addressed being accused of acting "irresponsible and abusive", and claim that they asked the boy continually if he wanted to stop.
"We did not see any sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration and honored his request to keep on going," the Crawfords said.
"Yes there were tears. He had a fall and every single member of our family has cried during marathons," they conceded, saying that their experiences "were very limited compared to what has been reported" and "despite the incredible physical and emotional difficulty of running a marathon" the boy's crying was "comparable to what we would have experienced had we stayed home on a Sunday morning".
As the child's bib number didn't appear in official times, however, there has been speculation that the Crawfords entered their youngest child into a shorter race and did what is known as "banditing" the full marathon by making him run a race he wasn't properly registered for.
The Crawfords said they didn't know why the six-year-old didn't appear in race results but were adamant the family crossed the finish line together, and marathon spokesperson Jackie Reau also told The Enquirer in Cincinnati that every Crawford was registered for the full marathon.
"They have a pattern of banditing races," Reau remarked. "It was clear they were going to run the race whether they were registered or not. For the safety of their family, they were permitted to register for the full race so they would have on-course support."
While also confirming that race organizers have known the Crawfords for years, Reau denied claims made by the family in the deleted social media post that they were told to get a doctor's clearance for their juvenile children.
The Crawfords have not received universal criticism, however. "I think we are way too easy on children and create many lazy and unable humans so teaching them endurance and overcoming difficulties is great!" said one social media commenter in support.
To prove there was no foul play, and silence those making "confident and absolute assertions", the Crawfords say that they have "hours of video footage and images" which will be released in order to prove the boy's emotional state during the race "very clearly."