Influencer Parents Let 6-Year-Old Son Run a Marathon. They Were Later Visited by CPS

“Someone reported that we dragged Rainier after mile 13 and across the finish line, pulling him against his will"

Participants run the 2022 Los Angeles Marathon.
Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

A Kentucky couple who ran a marathon with their 6-year-old son says they are being investigated by Child Protective Services (CPS).

YouTubers Ben and Kami Crawford, who have six children, announced in an Instagram post that CPS showed up at their home on Saturday.

“Someone reported that we dragged Rainier after mile 13 and across the finish line, pulling him against his will,” the Crawfords wrote.

“Our hours of footage reveal a different story — that Rainier is young human who was very determined to finish and was never dragged ONCE on the entire 26.2 mile course,” they added.

Earlier this month, the Crawfords stated on Instagram that “CPS has investigated us for doing much crazier things and deemed us safe parents for our kids.”

The little boy completed the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 8 hours and 35 minutes. The Crawfords acknowledged that he was “crying” and “struggling physically” toward the end. The Crawfords said they “asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue.”

They noted they did not see any sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration. 

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher expressed concerns for Rainier’s emotional and physical well-being. 

“I don’t know who needs to hear this but a six year old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically,” Goucher wrote on Twitter. “A six year old does not understand what embracing misery is. A six year old who is ‘struggling physically’ does not realize they have the right to stop and should.” 

Ben Crawford defended their decision to let the little boy run the race, telling TODAY Parents on Wednesday, "Some of the kids have been having emotional breakdowns because of all the hate and judgment from people declaring they shouldn’t be allowed to run, and fear from CPS coming to our house."

Performance coach Steve Magness, who wrote “The Science of Running,” agrees with Goucher.

“No good comes out of a child that young running for 8+ hours. It’s dangerous, physically and psychologically,” Magness tweeted. "Kids want to be loved. They’ll endure crazy things for mom/dad's approval. Parents: Stop pressuring kids to live out your dreams.”

Magness told TODAY Parents there's not really good research on how activities like a marathon affect a child’s body.

"It’s rare to see such activity, so there’s little good science. But, we do know that putting a rapidly developing and growing body under stress that it’s in no way prepared for isn’t a wise move, and can potentially lead to injury,” Magness said in an interview. “More importantly, from a psychological standpoint, a 6-year-old doesn’t yet have the capacity to know what they’re getting into with a marathon. They don’t have the autonomy to say no. A child just wants attention, support, and love from mom and dad.”

Dr. Jay Lovenheim, a pediatrician in New Jersey, previously told TODAY Parents that it's not dangerous for a child to run a marathon if they’ve trained properly.

"If they’ve been training and taking rest days and they’re being monitored and there’s no signs of heat exhaustion — I really don’t see a whole lot of risk,” Lovenheim said. “I’d be a little more concerned if they were running regular marathons. One marathon is fine.”

Kentucky CPS and District Attorney Steve Franzen did not respond to TODAY's request for comment.

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