Critics race to stop bill to ban youth runners in long-distance events

Updated: Feb. 4, 2018 at 9:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new proposal at the State Capitol aims to ban children from running in long-distance races.

Senate Bill 2413 which would prohibit anyone under 18 from participating in endurance events such as the Honolulu Marathon and the Hapalua - Hawaii's Half Marathon.

14-year-old Kekoa Tugaoen is about to start training for his first marathon.

"I've learned so much from running and it's sad because they're trying to take that all away from us," said the Highlands Intermediate School student.

Tugaoen's parents said he would be devastated if the bill passed since he is hoping to secure a scholarship and run long distance events on a college team.

"How is he supposed to be competitive with other students his age if he doesn't have proof that he can compete?" wondered his mother, Aly Tugaoen.

State Senator Will Espero says he introduced the measure at the request of some advocates for children.

"I thought at the very least, the legislature is where we vet ideas and where we discuss issues, so I introduced it to see whether it was merited or warranted at all," he said.

Research studies and health professionals recognize health consequences such as overuse injuries in youth who run in endurance events, according to the bill.

"It's a good discussion regarding the activity of our children and youth in sports. At the end of the day, we just want to make certain that our children and youth are safe," said Espero.

Honolulu Marathon president and physician Jim Barahal disputes the findings. He said the 26.2 mile race has safeguards in place. There are no awards for keiki. Participants must be at least 7 years old. All minors must have parental consent and those under 14 must run with a parent.

"The evidence is overwhelming, the data is overwhelming, it's not only a safe activity, it's something that's going to make people healthier for life," said Barahal.

Nearly 850 youth took part in last year's Honolulu Marathon, according to Barahal. He said he has never heard of a minor having a medical emergency at the race.

The measure does not specify a limit for a long-distance event.

The public hearing on SB2413 is set for 3:45 p.m. on Monday in conference room 016.

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