Why pay to run? How organised events may ignite your kid’s passion for sports

Young participants and their parents at the Kids Dash run in 2019. PHOTO: THE IRONMAN GROUP

SINGAPORE – If your kids have yet to experience mass fun runs due to the pandemic, consider getting them started. Sign up for one of the many children’s sporting events that are making a comeback.

The annual Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM), for example, will stage its 650m Kids Dash on Dec 2, from 6 to 9pm, at the F1 Pit Building.

Organisers The Ironman Group are expecting 2,000 children aged two to 12 to take part this year. This category was last available in 2019.

On Dec 3, kids aged 10 and older can also join the 5km run, and teens aged 14 and above can take part in the 10km route.

In July, the first parent-child mass run in Singapore since 2020 was held at Bay East Garden. TriFactor Kids Run, presented by the Kiztopia indoor playground company and organised by sports events company Orange Room, drew more than 3,500 participants.

If your family is new to these non-competitive sporting events, you may wonder: Why pay to join a run when your kids can sprint around – for free – at parks and sport stadiums?

Young participants and their parents at the Kids Dash run in 2019. PHOTO: THE IRONMAN GROUP

National athlete Thiruben Thana Rajan says the experiences are different.

His first taste of an organised run was the SCSM Kids Dash category when he was five. He returned to join it again when he was aged seven and 12.

“I distinctly remember feeling very tiny, lining up at the start of the 2005 and 2007 events and being amazed at how fast the older kids were running,” Mr Thiruben, who turns 22 on Friday, tells The Straits Times.

“I loved the thrill of waiting for the airhorn to go off and running as fast as my legs could go.”

National athlete Thiruben Thana Rajan remembers feeling very tiny as he lined up at the start of the 2007 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon’s Kids Dash category. PHOTO: THIRUBEN THANA RAJAN

There were also the event T-shirt and finisher medal to celebrate the fitness journey and achievement.

When he was 12, he found a new adrenaline rush from being the first few to cross the finish line.

His parents used to be avid runners, especially his father, Mr Thana Rajan, 50, who represented Singapore at the Asian Masters Championships in 2016 and the World Masters Indoor Championships in 2017. He ran the 400m, 800m and 1,500m events.

Mr Thiruben says: “They were probably excited to share that running experience with me, so they signed me up for the events once I was old enough.”

He also recalls following his dad to competitions when he was young. “That naturally got me interested in sports without it being forced onto me.”

He started training seriously in 2014 when he joined the cross-country team in National Junior College.

He went on to set a new national record of 47.91 seconds in the 400m category while representing Singapore at the 2017 Under-18 World Championships in Kenya.

(From left) Tan Zong Yang, Reuben Lee, Thiruben Thana Rajan and Calvin Quek won a bronze in the men’s 4x400m finals at the Hanoi 2021 SEA Games. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE/STANLEY CHEAH

More recently, he competed at the Hanoi 2021 SEA Games and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, both in the 400m race and 4x400m relay.

“Running is such a pure sport,” he says. “I love challenging my own limits and nothing feels more satisfying than setting personal bests.”

This year, he will be taking part in the SCSM 5km category with his younger brothers, who are 17 and 14. He also has a 13-year-old sister.

He recommends that parents expose their kids to a variety of sports and participate together in activities such as the SCSM Kids Dash, which toddlers as young as two can take part in.

Mr Thiruben Thana Rajan (left) representing Singapore at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. PHOTO: SINGAPORE ATHLETICS/SHALINDRAN

But he cautions that kids should not be pushed into training for competitive running too early.

When parents set high expectations for their children and force them to adhere to a strict training regime, the young ones will view running as a chore rather than something they genuinely enjoy doing, he says.

“Allow your kids to develop a love for running naturally, so they will continue to participate in it when they are older. It should be about having fun.”

- The registration fee for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon’s Kids Dash category is $35 a person. Children aged six and below must be accompanied by an adult. For details, go to www.singaporemarathon.com

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