Parents under investigation after letting 6-year-old son run full marathon

Ben and Kami Crawford are pictured with their son, Rainier, during the Flying Pigs Marathon. The Crawfords are defending their decision to allow their son to run a marathon. Instagram / @fightfortogether

Ben and Kami Crawford are defending their decision to allow their six-year-old son to run a marathon, while revealing that child services is investigating their family.

The Crawfords shared a photo to Instagram over the weekend showing their youngest child, Rainier, being interviewed by an investigator from Kentucky’s child protective services department.

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“Yesterday Child Protective Services (CPS) arrived at our home unannounced and interviewed our children, parents & grandmother,” the family’s Instagram caption read. “This is a scary process because usually children are interrogated away from parents, against their will, and their answers determine the agency’s legal right to take away the kids.”

The family made headlines last week after they shared a post to Instagram showing Rainier’s completion of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati on May 1.

The couple shared that the young boy “was struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes” at mile 20. Marathons are 26.2 miles (42 kilometres) long.

In the May 2 post, the Crawfords, who run a YouTube channel and website about their family, said their son was “crying and we were moving slow.” In an effort to get him over the finish line, the family said they promised him two sleeves of Pringles if he kept going.

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“I had to promise him another sleeve to get him in the family pic at the finish line. Today I paid him off,” reads the Instagram post, showing their son holding the potato chips.

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The Crawfords have faced fierce criticism and accusations of child abuse, with many saying a race of that length is too long for a six-year-old.

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher offered her take on Twitter, saying that “a six year old cannot fathom what a marathon will do to them physically. 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.”

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Goucher emphasized that she wasn’t calling out the Crawfords’ parenting but “as an Olympic athlete, I promise you this is not good for the child. Children are children. Let them run around, but as the parent you need to protect their growing bodies and their young minds.”

Performance coach Steve Magness also shared his thoughts to Twitter, saying, “no good comes out of a child that young running for 8+ hours. It’s dangerous, physically & psychologically.”

In an effort to defend his family, Ben Crawford said “the real stuff that we got accused of was dragging Rainier, like physically dragging him on the marathon course after mile 13 and across the finish line.”

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“If you guys have seen our finish line picture, we all held hands for like the last probably, like, 0.2, 0.3 miles,” he added in his lengthy Instagram video. “We talked about it ahead of time, like that’s what we’re going to do.”

In a statement to ABC News, the marathon organizers said they made an exception to the rule that requires all Flying Pig participants to be at least 18 years old.

“This decision was not made lightly. The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless,” the organizers said, highlighting the fact that the family had done the run in previous years without officially signing up and was “likely to do so again.”

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“The intent was to try to offer protection and support if they were on our course (medical, fluid and replenishment). Our decision was intended for some amount of safety and protection for the child,” the statement continued, adding that in future years the age requirement “will be strictly observed.”

In a lengthy Facebook post, the Crawfords said Rainier “begged” to be included in the marathon and that they were “ready to pull the plug” if he wanted to stop.

“We asked him numerous times if he wanted to stop and he was VERY clear that his preference was to continue,” they said. “We did not see any sign of heat exhaustion or dehydration and honored his request to keep on going. We go to great lengths to prioritize our kids’ health.

“Yes there were tears. He had a fall and every single member of our family has cried during marathons. These experiences were very limited compared to what has been reported.”

Steve Franzen, district attorney for Campbell Country in Kentucky confirmed to Good Morning America that child services is investigating the Crawfords, but that no determination has been made yet.

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