Toddlers and Triathlons: How to Create a Family-Friendly Race

Family-Friendly Race ChronoTrack

Alright, race directors, so you know how to manage a race. But what about children? Nearly half of the adults in the U.S. are parents, giving us a whopping 46 million children. So whether you love ‘em or can’t stand ‘em, children are an important part of race day. Include them, and you’ll be able to boost both revenue and registration rates (not to mention gain some big brownie points from parents)!

So how can you safely entertain kids while keeping them out from underfoot? We have a few ideas.

Host a Kids Race

Let kids imitate mom or dad in a non-competitive race made just for them! Here’s what you need to do:

Make it appealing to kids

Give your race (and racers!) a cute, kid-friendly nickname. Colorado’s Golden Gallop features ‘buckaroos’, ‘ponies’ and ‘stallions’ while North Carolina’s Reindeer Fun Run turns into the Kids’ Egg Nog Jog. Make the course flat and easy or turn it into an obstacle or relay race for extra fun! Though the race shouldn’t be competitive, give kids an official bib and participation prizes – nothing makes a kid feel more important than a medal, even if it’s made of chocolate.

Family-Friendly Race ChronoTrack2Determine age groups

A four-year-old is very different from a nine-year-old. Accommodate different age groups with different distances and start times if you can. We recommend no more than a mile for the older (ages 8-12) kids while a quarter-mile is acceptable for those around age 4. Some races accommodate even younger children, like the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon’s “Diaper Dash”, a 15-foot crawl for infants less than a year old.

Decide parents’ roles

For safety reasons – and to avoid a lot of sad, lost-looking children – allow parents to race with children under the age of 6. It’s up to you if you allow adults to run with the older kids: on one hand, their involvement could encourage the more shy children to sign up while on the other, too many adults on the course could lower the fun level for both kids and spectators.

Get schools involved

A fun way to drive registration is to offer group discounts to elementary schools and offer a special award (even if it’s just a certificate and bragging rights) to the school with the largest team or fastest average time.

Provide Child Care

A kids race will keep tykes busy, but only for so long. There’s still five or more hours until marathon-running parents return! One solution is to offer childcare but, whether you’re a parent or not, you know trusting someone with your child is a big deal. So make sure you do it right.

Pick the right people

They don’t need to have a degree in child development but they do need to know what they’re doing. Don’t pick the intern who will wander off for coffee while little Jimmy downs fistfuls of dirt. Find patient, responsible staff members with experience handling young children; you’ll also want to have trained medical staff on site. Include caretakers’ information on the registration site and have them meet parents at drop-off to build trust.

Pick the right location

Your childcare area can either be in a fenced-off location onsite or at a nearby hotel or rec center. Onsite is likely cheaper and easier for parents to access but young children can also be overwhelmed by the commotion that race day brings. Regardless of location, provide fun activities like children’s books or games (and probably some snacks, too)!

Determine capacity and pricing

This will depend both on your location and the number of caretakers available. Take your staff’s capabilities and the ACA’s guidelines into account: they recommend one staff member for every six children ages 4-5; for eight children ages 6-8; or for ten children ages 9-14. How you charge is up to you: the 10k Rum Run, for example, charges $10 per child with $5 for each additional child per family.
Childcare not for you? No worries. There’s an organization called RaceKids that will handle it all for you.

Enter the Fun Zone

Kid-specific “fun zones”, full of family-friendly activities like face painting and bouncy houses, are commonplace at endurance events. The Fun Zone can serve as a child care area, be part of the post-race party, or be placed at the end of the kids’ finish line as a participation perk. Besides keeping kids occupied, you can generate extra revenue and exposure by offering a title sponsorship for the Fun Zone.

Cover Your Butt

Literally, of course, but also figuratively! Work with a lawyer to create mandatory waivers for all kid-related activities. The last thing you want is to be sued for scraped knees!

Finally, remember that you don’t have to offer all of these activities, but each one will make race day run smoother and offer opportunities for increased revenue. Look into each option to see which would be most beneficial for your adult participants and which is most cost-effective for your team.

For all your other race day needs, contact ChronoTrack. We’re here to help!