CINCINNATI, Ohio - An Ohio couple are defending themselves after facing extreme backlash for running a marathon with their 6-year-old son.
Kami and Ben Crawford have six kids and chronicle their adventures on YouTube and social media pages. When the Crawfords ran the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati on May 1, it was the first time all eight family members ran a 26.2-mile race together, including their 6-year-old son.
Runners reportedly started asking questions when they saw the child crying during the race. The marathon requires runners to be at least 18 years old.
The uproar that followed online was swift.
"We have never forced any of our children to run a marathon and we cannot even imagine that as feasible practically or emotionally," the Crawfords said. "We have given all of our kids the option for every race."
The Crawfords said their son Rainer "begged" to join them for the marathon this year, and they were "ready to pull the plug" if he asked or thought his safety was at risk.
"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," the Crawfords continued. "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."
In a follow-up video on Instagram, Ben Crawford said he and his family have faced public threats.
"The firestorm we feel right now is that there's a lot of people out there who do not feel safe parenting publicly the way they parent at home," Crawford said. "Because look at what happened to us ... the types of threats that are being made against us publicly ... it's like, pretty crazy."
Organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon addressed the controversy on their website. Marathon director Iris Simpson Bush said the decision to allow the child to race "was not made lightly."
"The father was determined to do the race with his young child regardless," she said. "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," she continued. "I assume full responsibility for the decision and accept that it was not the best course of action. Our requirement of 18+ for participation in the marathon will be strictly observed moving forward."
The Crawfords, meanwhile, admit their "parenting methods are unconventional," but said accusations of child abuse are incorrect.
"We're thankful to those who supported us on race day," they said. "It was an incredible experience and we can't wait to share more."