Parents of 6-year-old marathon runner address outcry after child protective service visit

·5 min read

The parents of the 6-year-old marathon runner said child protective services came to their home to interview their children following the outcry over the 26.2-mile Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ben and Kami Crawford, who run a website and active YouTube channel, shared a photo of their youngest, Rainier, being interviewed by CPS on Friday with an accompanying statement. They said interviews were conducted with their children, parents and grandmother. Campbell County, Kentucky, District Attorney Steve Franzen confirmed the open investigation and visit to "Good Morning America."

"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 parents wrote on their Instagram page.

The couple continue to face scrutiny after completing the race with their six children, including 6-year-old Rainer, on May 1. They shared photos of Rainier leading up to and during the race. A final photo showed the family at the finish line and later a video of them holding hands across the finish line. Critics included Olympic runners who voiced concern for the child's physical and mental well-being.

The painted start/finish line across the track at the park.
A painted start/finish line across a track at a park.

Parents of marathon child speak out

The post that drew the most outrage was one of Rainier holding a 27-cup case of Pringles at the grocery store. The couple wrote in the caption their son was "struggling physically and wanted to take a break and sit every three minutes." It took seven hours to reach mile No. 20, where there are usually Pringles for runners, but they were out. It is what Rainier had been looking forward to, they said.

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

They addressed accusations of child abuse in an Instagram video on Saturday, saying in part:

"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," Ben Campbell said.

Crawford again stated his son "had the option" to run and "begged" them to do so. He said the people making the phone calls "don't have any proof."

"I don't know if I should be angry," he said. "I like to believe that people are doing the best that they can. They're not trying to ruin our life or, you know, they probably are legit afraid for our kids. But also, it's like, where's the line?"

David Glass, a family law attorney, told GMA it was a unique case because it was the family that posted photos all over social media.

"Once there's an outcry and people make a report, CPS is obligated to do an investigation," Glass said, via GMA.

The family had previously had a run-in with CPS while hiking the entire 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail together, per the Washington Post. Crawford said in a previous Instagram video he was telling his children "how to deal with CPS" if they were to be contacted again.

Why was a 6-year-old allowed to run a marathon?

Rainier is the youngest of six children. The three oldest are ages 17-20. The Flying Pig Marathon has an age minimum of 18 for the full marathon, 14 for the half-marathon and 12 for the 10-kilometer race.

Race executive director Iris Simpson Bush took "full responsibility" for the decision to allow the 6-year-old to run and called it "not the best course of action" in a statement last week. Bush said that because Ben Crawford and his family members had unofficially run the race as "bandits" in previous years, they wanted to allow the 6-year-old to run to "try to offer protection and support if they were on our course."

Via the Washington Post:

“This decision was not made lightly,” wrote Bush, who noted that event officials receive requests each year for “special accommodations.” “The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless. … Our decision was intended for some amount of safety and protection for the child.”

Crawford took issue with this in an Instagram post on Monday. He said they have worked with race directors around the country to "do things as officially as possible and register every family member allowed."

"Just because you choose not to sanction my child’s running does not give you the right to label them as 'bandits,'" he wrote. "You don’t own the streets and you don’t own running. They’re doing an activity you promote and not hurting anyone."

Runners who do not register for a race but run it anyway are labeled as "bandits" for using aid stations, refreshment tables, finish-line times and using a well-marked course without paying for the work that goes into it. It can be harmful for the safety of races that have limited entry.

In an FAQ Google Doc on the family's social pages, the couple said there will be a "full-length documentary in the next two weeks that details our son's physical and emotional process in great detail. At that time people will have a better picture of what our VERY difficult and rewarding day was like."