Lace up the sneakers and get the family moving this spring by participating in one of the many family-friendly walk/runs throughout the Chicago area.
"Kids who have active parents learn a healthy lifestyle, and running offers them so much," says Becki Suthers, communications and membership manager for the Chicago Area Runners Association. "They learn goal-setting, dedication and self-confidence. And the look on their faces at the finish line is priceless."
With more 5K and 10K races geared toward families and children, it's easy for families to get started with running and racing. The key is to look for runs with special youth races and other activities designed for kids.
"Sometimes with the bigger races, it's not feasible to accommodate small kids and strollers because of the sheer number of runners involved," Suthers says. "But many events are including everything from diaper dashes for 6-month-olds to a 1-mile sprint for older children."
Races and walks organized specifically for kids are meant to be fun and laid back.
"They're kind of like children's soccer games," Suthers says. "It's a free-for-all."
Running etiquette and rules vary, depending on the event. Parents looking to involve the entire family in a general public walk or run should teach their kids basic rules of racing. One of the main things is to keep to the right when slowing down and to be mindful of other runners.
"It's important for them to call out to other runners if they're going to pass on the left, and if you're running as a family you want to run together, but you don't want to be five men abreast," Suthers says.
Runner Gretchen Matzelle has had her sons Forrester, 16, and Blake, 12, participating in charity races for the past five years. Along with the fun, she stresses the importance of the cause.
"The night before, we discuss all of the different ages and abilities of the people who will be participating and make sure they understand what motivates those who are involved," she says.
And remember, when getting the family ready for a race, it's important to dress comfortably and wear good shoes.
"You don't need to outfit your child in complete running apparel," Suthers says. "Put them in something they can move in and have fun."