Running a 5K for a good cause adds healthy movement and a give-back attitude to your kids’ after-school lives — a phenomenon known in most circles as a win-win. Kristen Saffa, event chair of Arkansas Children's Race for a Healthier Tomorrow, offers kid-friendly tips for race training.

Getting Started

The Right Age

Kids around 7 or 8 are ready to begin training for their first 5K. “For a young kid, 3.1 miles is a long way and can be very discouraging, plus training at too young of an age could lead to injury,” Saffa says. If you do have younger kids, look for races that offer family fun walks. Your little runner can still develop a love of the sport in a no-pressure, scaled-down version of the race.

The Right Gear

For adult runners, preparing to hit the pavement is simple. Shoes are really the only gear you need, but finding the right pair is crucial. “So many new runners will complain about aches and pains, and it’s usually related to their shoes,” reveals Saffa. It’s worth taking all the proper shoe shopping steps, like getting fitted by a pro, before your first stride.

For kids, the focus is on comfort. As a mom of two, Saffa draws from personal experience. “I’m not sure about anyone else’s children, but my kids will complain about anything from an itchy tag to tight socks!” So, when shopping for training gear be picky. “I make sure that every aspect of the clothing is comfortable and fits properly,” says Saffa.

Sample Training Program

When it comes to training—especially for your family’s first race—it’s better to err on the side of too much time. Saffa recommends taking six to eight weeks to prepare. That will give you more than enough training sessions to make sure that you and your kids are race day ready.


Goal: Walk 3 days, not in a row.
Duration: 15-20 minutes each training session.
Pro Tip: “Make a game out of it,” Saffa suggests. “Play I Spy or bounce a ball while walking. If their mind is occupied, they won’t complain.”


Goal: Walk 3 days, not in a row.
Duration: 20 minutes each training session.
Pro Tip: Introduce a run/walk pattern to start building up endurance.


Goal: Run/walk 3 days, not in a row.
Duration: 30 minutes each training session.
Pro Tip: After all your hard work, your endurance should be built up to add more structure to your run/walk pattern. Work up to alternating two minutes of running with one minute of walking for the entire 30 minutes.


Goal: Confidence-boosting 15 minute run a couple days before the race.
Pro Tip: “I tend to start tapering off my running schedule to give my legs a rest. Definitely take the day before the race off and drink plenty of water so your body will be in tip-top shape for race day!” Saffa says.

2020 Ultimate All-School Guide