Fun runs can often be as short as a mile, and it's usually an opportunity to run, jog, walk, or even push a buggy with the youngest member of your family. Fun runs are a great way of involving every member of the family, regardless of their age or fitness level. They are all about taking part, not chasing a personal best, and there are usually medals for all finishers, so everyone will be happy.
Fun runs at main race events
Many larger running events will also host a fun run while the main event takes place. This gives people an opportunity to get involved, often while a member of their family participates in the main race.
Orienteering is a great sport for the family. Events typically involve a range of different courses, all taking place at the same time and of varying length and difficulty. There are 'string' courses for the kids, in which a continuous line of string effectively guides them around the route, to more complex courses involving serious map reading skills and running distances of approximately 10k (6.2 miles). There is very much a family atmosphere at orienteering events and everyone can keep fit and develop useful map reading and navigational skills at the same time.
Nowadays, even the youngest children needn’t be excluded from a family run or jog. Prams have been superseded by modern, lightweight baby-joggers that are both comfortable for the occupant and designed so that the person pushing the baby-jogger can safely do so while running. With brakes, a stable chassis and even rugged tires for off-road use, the baby-jogger enables babies and toddlers to accompany their parents and older siblings running in the great outdoors.
- Juniors - Junior runners are essential to the survival of any running club because they help to ensure that a regular supply of runners will go on to join the senior ranks. For that reason, many clubs put a lot of effort into attracting children by organising various events, activities and training sessions all of which can be and usually are supported by their parents. And parents can even join in at certain events.
- Training weekends/holidays - Training weekends or longer holidays are a great opportunity for the whole family to get together and enjoy the odd race and some quality training time together. Also, with cheaper and cheaper air travel, taking the family for a spot of warm weather training is now more affordable.
- Run and bike - By using a combination of two wheels and two legs, the whole family can venture off together. Mum and dad can run while the children cycle, or perhaps vice versa or indeed any combination of running and cycling between family members. How about swapping over every mile so that everyone gets a chance to recover from running.
Family-friendly running tips
There are no rules to enjoying a family running outing but a few precautions will ensure that everyone gets the most out of the day:
- It’s not a race. If the whole family is going out together, there’s nothing more off-putting than when one family member can’t contain his or her competitive instincts. Everyone will be at different ability and fitness levels, so just take it as an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing run together.
- More mileage - If you want to bring more of a quality element into your family run, try setting off before everyone else is ready and complete a few miles on your own, before joining the rest of the family for a lighter session. With some careful planning, you can boost your mileage and keep the family happy too.
- Keep to the slowest pace - It is important that everyone feels part of the run – so charging off into the distance won’t do much for family bonding. Always stick to the pace of the slowest runner, so they don’t get demoralised. If the speed is slower than that of your usual sessions, try a quality or long run the day before and then use the family run as your recovery session.
- Think of the children - Children are unlikely to (and shouldn’t) be running long distances, so plan your routes in advance, bearing in mind their age and abilities. Also, take some drinks and sweets in case you need to keep them topped up with energy en route.
Family running training tips
Unless all the family members are regular runners, specific training opportunities during a family run are naturally more limited. The primary idea of running as a family is to do just that: run as a family. So don’t carry out your own training session! However, you can still get training benefits from family runs by trying some of the following:
- Recovery running - Try running after an earlier hard workout.
- Building mileage - Use the family run to add a bit of extra distance to your weekly total.
- Fartlek-type workouts - Run up and down between the front and back of the family running group. By doing this you can cover more distance and vary your pace.
- Family competition - If you plan in advance to meet up with relations, the adults in the family including uncles, in-laws and so on can enjoy a training session together.
The great beauty of any family activity is how it brings everyone together with a common theme – and running is certainly no exception. Family running can involve many fun bonding activities, such as children comparing their fun run times, adults swapping training tips, or just the pure pleasure of being out together in the great outdoors.
Whichever family running activities you try, you can guarantee that you’ll help your fitness and benefit from some time with your family. There’s an old saying which goes: ‘Families that play together, stay together.’