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CINCINNATI – Backlash on social media after a 6-year-old ran a full 26.2 miles in a marathon in Ohio has race organizers defending their decision to allow the child to participate.

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Ben and Kami Crawford posted a family photo showing all eight members at the finish line of the Flying Pig Marathon on Instagram. The photo immediately got attention, because the youngest member of the family is only 6-years-old.

In a lengthy Facebook post responding to criticisms for allowing their young child to run the race, the Crawford family said they have never forced their children to participate, and that they only allowed the 6-year-old to take part after he begged to train. In the post, the Crawfords said that this was the first time the entire family has run together, with the older children waiting for more than an hour at mile 25 so the whole family could cross the finish line together after eight hours and 35 minutes.

In a statement to WCPO, a spokesperson for the Flying Pig Marathon admitted that organizers made an exception to the rule that requires all runners be at least 18 years old. In a statement they said, “This decision was not made lightly. The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless. They had done it as bandits, in prior years, before we had any knowledge of it and we knew he was likely to do so again. 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 added, “Our requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed moving forward.”

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher offered her take on Twitter, saying, “I don’t know who needs to hear this but 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. I’m not questioning motivation or saying its is bad 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.”