YouTuber parents Ben and Kami Crawford are facing backlash for running a marathon with their 6-year-old son, Rainier, in tow.
On Sunday, the Crawfords along with their six children, completed the 26.2-mile Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Though the race has a posted age minimum of 18, organizers made a special exception for the Crawfords, who set the record in 2018 for the largest family to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
Rainier completed the marathon in 8 hours and 35 minutes. But according to a post on the family’s Instagram, Rainier was “crying” and “struggling physically” toward the end. As an incentive to keep moving, the Crawfords said they promised Rainier two cans of Pringles.
Lee Troop, an Olympic marathon runner from Australia, is one of many who expressed concerns for Rainier’s physical and emotional well-being.
“Race organizers allowing a 6 year old to run a marathon. Child stopping every 3mins after 20 miles, crying and emotionally distressed. Parents bribing him to finish & he’ll get Pringles. Parents seeing no issue in allowing this to happen. Everything about this is wrong!” Troop wrote on Twitter.
In response to public outcry, the Crawfords published a lengthy statement on Instagram to “lay out facts.” They explained that Rainier had been “begging” to participate in the marathon.
“Both parents gave him a 50/50 chance of completing it and we were ready to pull the plug at any moment if he requested it or if we viewed his safety at risk,” they wrote. “We asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop, and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue. We did not see any sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration and honored his request to keep going.”
The Crawfords also responded to reports from other runners, who claimed they had seen Rainier crying for a "majority" of the race.
“Yes there were tears. He had a fall and every single member of our family has cried during marathons,” they wrote, adding that they have "hours of video footage and images that will be released that depict his emotional state very clearly."
The Crawfords did not respond to TODAY's request for comment.
Dr. Jay Lovenheim, a pediatrician in West Orange, New Jersey, told TODAY Parents that while it’s unusual for a child to run a full marathon, it's not dangerous.
“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."
Lovenheim noted that kids are “really durable” and require far less recovery time than adults.
The Crawfords wrote on Instagram that Rainier was jumping on a trampoline and asking to run a half-marathon the very next day.
In an open letter, Iris Simpson Bush, director of the marathon, said their decision to allow a 6-year-old to participate was “not made lightly.” But she added that “requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed going forward.”
Rainier's marathon results are no longer available on the Race Roster stat sheet.