Parents deny making son run 42km marathon after backlash: 'Crying and distressed'

A family has faced fierce backlash after supposedly making their six-year-old boy run a full marathon in tears, but parents Ben and Kam deny any wrongdoing.

The Crawfords, from Kentucky, in the US, ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati last Sunday, with young Rainier joining his five older siblings and parents in the 42-kilometre race.

The family, who's been sharing their strict training regime on Instagram, successfully completed the race and shared a smiling snap of their brood at the finish line.

But critics slammed the parents as "abusive" after other runners claimed Rainer had cried "the entire way" — something Mr and Mrs Crawford, who are seasoned marathon runners, have heavily defended.

The Crawford family were accused of 'abuse' after 'making' their six-year-old boy run a marathon, despite him crying throughout. Source: Instagram
The Crawford family were accused of 'abuse' after reportedly making their six-year-old boy run a marathon. Source: Instagram

"This pic doesn't capture all of us runners witnessing this poor child crying through this tough muggy brutal marathon," one person hit out on Instagram.

"I witnessed this, it was awful! Disgraceful that the race director allowed this," another runner said.

Olympic marathon runner Lee Troop later Tweeted about the incident and questioned why a six-year-old was allowed to run the race.

"Child stopping every 3mins after 20 miles, crying and emotionally distressed. Parents bribing him to finish and he’ll get Pringles," he wrote. "Parents seeing no issue in allowing this to happen. Everything about this is wrong!"

Mr and Mrs Crawford have also been accused of "bribing" their son with Pringles to finish the race.

In an Instagram post following the marathon, Rainier can be seen smiling while holding a box featuring the snack's logo.

In the caption, the parents admit the six-year-old was "struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes".

"He was crying and we were moving slow so I told him I'd buy him two sleeves if he kept moving. I had to promise him another sleeve to get him in the family pic at the finish line. Today I paid him off," they wrote.

The boy holding the box of Pringles and at the end of the race.
People accused the parents of 'bribing' the boy with Pringles. Source: Instagram

Parents hit back at critics

Following the extensive backlash, Mr and Mrs Crawford have defended their decision to let Rainier run the race and say they have "never forced any of [their] children to run a marathon".

"Many people are inaccurately reporting that people saw him for the 'entire' or 'majority' of the race crying and that there are numerous witnesses," the Crawfords wrote online on Tuesday.

They said Rainier "begged" them to let him join the race with his siblings.

"[We] were ready to pull the plug at any moment if he requested it or if we viewed his safety at risk," the couple insisted.

"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 honoured his request to keep on going."

The parents acknowledged that Rainier "had a fall" but said that "every single member of our family has cried during marathons".

"These experiences were very limited compared to what has been reported and despite the incredible physical and emotional difficulty of running a marathon the amount of his crying is comparable to what we would have experienced had we stayed home on a Sunday morning," they said.

Child Protective Services Investigation ensues

On Saturday, the parents revealed Child Protective Services had visited their home unannounced and conducted an hour-long interrogation.

They claimed all six children were interviewed, and was Mr Crawford's mum, presumably about the children's welfare.

The parents claimed the agency had received at least seven reports from "strangers we've never met" prompting them to investigate. The outcome of the investigation is not yet known.

When questioned about allowing the young boy to enter the race, The Flying Pig Marathon in a statement said that it "takes the safety and security of all participants very seriously", the Metro reports.

"We receive numerous requests for special accommodations each year and carefully evaluate each one," the marathon stated.

"Our goal is to provide a positive race experience for all participants while supporting them along the course. The Flying Pig Marathon was founded on the idea of hosting a world-class road race experience and will always strive to do so."

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