Before the adult's 5k, children even younger than two years old run one of two shorter races: 200 meters for kids 6 and under, and a mile for those over 6 years old.
Kevin Kelly, owner of the Chester County Running store, which hosts the series, says it's a great way to build self-esteem as well as fitness: "These kids get a lot out of just coming here and covering the distance, a lap around the field and a challenging mile that's pretty tough. Finishing, especially in the heat is an accomplishment for a lot of them."
As a parent, it's important not to push your youngster into exercising, but present it in a way that encourages your child to want to do it. One of the best ways, is to be an example: if you show that you enjoy exercising, your kids will likely enjoy it as well.
"Play is huge for kids," says Kelly. "If you show that exercise is fun, that it doesn't have to be an organized activity, but just playing ball or running around with friends for 45 minutes, to an hour, your child will naturally become more active. And if you can exercise as a family, even just going for a walk after dinner, it's great for them."
For my family, the summer cross country series means our 4-1/2 year old son Luke gets to warm up with fellow runner...Daddy.
For our nearly 3-year old daughter, Emma, the weekly races are a chance for her imagination to take flight, since she enjoys wearing her fairy wings and pretending she is a butterfly during the races.
Like any kind of exercise program, check with your pediatrician to ensure that your children are healthy enough for the activities. Start off slow, and combine exercise with healthy eating and make sure your children drink plenty of liquids, especially during the hot summer months.
The Chester County Running Store also holds children-only cross country races this Fall. In the races, every finisher takes away an award, and more importantly, the love of exercise and healthy competition that hopefully, will last a lifetime.