How to Make Running a Family Event

Eleven-year-old Kenan Pala tells the story of how his family grew closer by making running races a family activity.

Some families like to bond by going to the movies or playing board games. Mine goes running.

It started back in 2013 when I was 9 years old. My parents, who have always been great runners, decided we needed to spend more time outdoors as a family. So we began exercising several days a week and training for 5Ks.

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The first race we ran as a family was the 2013 Grape Day 5K in Escondido, California. Sure, it was just a normal 5K, but because it was my family's first one, I'll never forget it.

That race was what really got me hooked on running and turned it into a family event. We've run one or two races together every single month since then, and I'd estimate we've run about 25 in total.

I truly believe that running as a family has created a strong bond that would never have existed if we just stayed indoors and watched TV together. These days, we rarely fight or argue, and we've even learned how to communicate without speaking—just by using facial expressions. This really comes in handy when we're training!

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Running is a special kind of family activity because you can do it anywhere and don't need a bunch of expensive equipment. All you need is a pair of shoes and a desire to be active. But that's where it gets tricky: Not all kids have a desire to be active, or they might feel like they're too young to be a runner.

If your kids think they need to wait until they're older before they can run, you can easily use their age to your advantage. Tell them they will be the youngest kids to ever run a 5K, and they'll probably change their minds in a heartbeat.

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If that doesn't work and you're running out of options, offering them some candy if they go on a run or compete in a race could never hurt! What kind of kid would turn that down? And here's the thing: Once your kids finish the race, they probably won't even remember that you bribed them with candy, because they'll be so happy and proud of their achievement.

Kids who don't want to be active are a little more challenging, but it's not impossible to get them running. The key is belief.

If your kids think running makes their throats dry and hurts their bodies, you need to put a pillar of belief in their minds. Explain how the human body can do incredible things, and describe how, over time, running will help them feel better about themselves physically and mentally.

Running has given me and my family some of the greatest moments we've ever had in our lives. There's no better feeling than crossing the finish line with your mom and dad after a long race or having them cheer you on as you win your first triathlon. That finish line represents all the hard work we did together and the beginning of the next challenge we'll tackle as a team.

I'm so grateful that my parents turned running into a family event, and I strongly encourage every parent reading this article to do the same. You and your kids will be happier and healthier, and you'll develop a deeper relationship than words can describe—but maybe facial expressions can!

Kenan Pala is a guitarist, triathlete, trumpeter, traveler, and cosmonaut in training. At 11 years old, he's juggling his education and his passions for music, entrepreneurship, and staying active. He graduated from fifth grade in 2015 and attended NASA's United States Space Camp over the summer. Triathletes and his entrepreneurial parents inspire Kenan. 

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