Running with Kids: Top Family-Friendly Races in NYC

NYC hosts many kids'fun and competitive runs throughout the year. Photo courtesy Ronald McDonald House's Fun Run
NYC hosts many kids'fun and competitive runs throughout the year. Photo courtesy Ronald McDonald House's Fun Run
4/9/24 - By Yuliya Geikhman

Staying active is incredibly important for healthy development in kids, and getting kids running provides great exercise and cardio. From fun runs to themed races, NYC offers many kids running opportunities where children and parents can lace up their sneakers and pound the pavement together. Whether you and your family are seasoned runners or you're just looking to get your kids running, these races and runs are the best kid-friendly options in NYC. Of course, many of these kids running events in the spring and summer when the weather warms up, but there are kids' races year-round. Check out our favorite kids running picks below and find more ways to keep kids active in our NYC Kids' Guide to Sports Centers, Gyms, and Fun Zones.


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Kids running in NYC: Rising NYRR Races
Many Rising NYRR Races are tied with adult races making it easy for families to race together.

1. Rising NYRR Races

Events held year-round
New York Road Runners hosts many runs and walks every year throughout NYC. Young runners will want to check out its Rising NYRR Races, which are specifically created to "help youth develop the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life." All Rising events and races are free, and many are tied into adult races, so families can enjoy the day's activities together. Races are clearly organized into stages corresponding to different age groups, making it easy to choose an appropriate race for your kids.

2. Girls on the Run

Events held year-round
Girls on the Run empowers young girls (as well as nonbinary and gender-nonconforming kids) in third to eighth grades to become physically fit while making friends and learning life skills. Participation requires signing up for a session of 10 weeks, with practice meets generally occurring twice a week. The course culminates in a Community Impact Project and a 5K race. Instead of competing, the program focuses on teamwork and supporting each other, for a very different take on kids running that's geared toward boosting confidence.

3. Healthy Kids Running Series in Van Cortland Park

Events held in the spring and fall
The Healthy Kids Running Series believes that "healthy kids means happy kids." This race challenges kids from pre-K to 8th grade with races of varying lengths depending on age and runs for five weeks in May and September. This race also has a special Challenger series, which is an adaptive 75-yard race for children with disabilities or special needs. When you register, you're entered into all five weeks of the series and receive race bibs, a runner's shirt, a medal, and entries into any giveaways. Kids can even earn points for the races they complete, based on how they do, adding a fun gamified aspect to the experience.

4. NYCRUNS Spring Fling on Governors Island

Held annually each April; 2024 date was Saturday, April 6
This annual run is held on the beautiful Governors Island, a car-free oasis that's just a 10-minute ferry ride from Manhattan or Brooklyn. The 5K takes runners around the island once, while the 10K consists of two loops, which really just means more time to take in the nature and calm of the site. The fee includes the ferry ride, a shirt, and post-race refreshments. NYCRuns has other events throughout the year, and they're all open to kids and teens, based on their distance: 5Ks are open to ages 6+, 10Ks are open to ages 12+, half-marathons are open to ages 15+, and full marathons are only for those older than 18.

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Family-Friendly Races in NYC
Raise money for children's charities while having fun in competitive and non-competitive races at NYRR's Race for the Kids in Central Park.

5. NYRR Race for the Kids in Central Park

Annually in April; 2024 date is Sunday, April 21
This isn't just a race that kids can participate in, it's a race that kids can benefit from. Held annually since 2009, the Race for the Kids is a series of family races that raise money for children's charities. Held through the NYRR Rising series, this particular race also has a non-competitive short dash for kids ages 2-11, which is completely FREE for the little ones.

6. Yo Mama's So Fast Half-Marathon in Flushing Meadows

Annually in May; 2024 date is Sunday, May 12
The Never Stop Running Foundation invites you to be #befastlikemama at this extra special Mother's Day celebration with a twist. Celebrate the strength of mothers by racing around Flushing Meadows Park in a 5K, complete with treats from the year's sponsoring food vendor. Older kids can participate in the race itself, while the littles can take part in the FREE kiddie dash that starts half an hour before the main marathon.

7. NYRR Boardwalk Kids Run on Coney Island

Annually in May; 2024 date is Saturday, May 18
This race on the Coney Island boardwalk is a way to involve kids in the biggest half-marathon in the US: The RBC Brooklyn Half-Marathon. This portion of the race is open to kids ages 2-18 and is completely FREE. Every participant who crosses the finish line gets a medal and a New Balance hat. If you're a family of runners and are already taking part in the Brooklyn Half, this is the perfect way to make it a family affair.

8. Kids Fun Run in Central Park

Annually in October; 2024 date is TBD
This race is organized by the Ronald McDonald House, so you'll be running for a good cause. RMH provides families of children with cancer and other serious illnesses housing and support. The race is specifically made for kids ages 4-17, with various lengths for different ages, and takes place at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park. There's an entry fee but kids can also get sponsored by friends and family to raise money for the charity. And if that's not enough, the event also has additional activities on-site, including face painting, refreshments, music, therapy dogs, and more.

9. Turkey Trot in Flushing Meadows

Annually in November; 2024 date is Saturday, November 30
Gobble up this chance to run as a family, with the annual Turkey Trot half-marathon. Participants tend to get extra-silly with their costumes for this event, with many donning full-on turkey outfits. This race is extra kid-friendly, as, unlike many other races, it allows strollers if you're walking or jogging the route. Plus, it ends with FREE doughnuts at the finish line!

10. Santa Strut at Rockaway Beach

Annually in December; 2024 date is TBD
This fun, themed race occurs in early December and takes runners down the length of the boardwalk. While the full 5K and 10K distance runs might be too much for younger kids to handle, there's a kid-friendly "Dreidel Dash" that takes place before the main race. Costumes and festivities make this a fun way to keep running, even in this colder month.

Photos courtesy of NYRR

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