Wright On: Distance running bill banning minors short-sighted

    Hawaii Senate Bill 2413 was introduced last month by senator William Espero of Ewa Beach, and it would “Prohibit(s) long distance running event organizers from allowing minors to register unless the minors will be eighteen years or older on the scheduled date of the running event.”

Today, we start by assuming the role of the good person in the room. We are the one who understands none of us is perfect, we all are prone to mistakes, despite our best intentions.

That helps to somewhat contain the incredulity over the fact that Hawaii Senate Bill 2413 was introduced last month by senator William Espero of Ewa Beach.


You come to office to serve the people, a laudable calling in life. Our state has the highest percentage per capita of homeless in the nation, most people can’t afford to own a home here, the environment is fragile, so there are no lack of important issues to tackle.

Espero’s bill would “Prohibit(s) long distance running event organizers from allowing minors to register unless the minors will be eighteen years or older on the scheduled date of the running event.”

If enacted, this potential law would ban anyone under 18 from competing in such events as a 10K, half-marathons and marathons. Usually, when you hear about new legal proposals offered up by politicians, you look directly for the lobbying group that might support changes in tax law, school funding, whatever. But who supports denying kids the opportunity to run long distances?

We are trying to recover from the image of a state that sends out bogus missile attack warnings, we don’t need to be the state that thinks kids running is a bad thing.

The idea was apparently presented in a 2010 publication of the Journal of Athletic Training that concerned a study of young people who run.

From the article, the objective was: “To describe shock attenuation (a weakening force or tendency), characteristics for children running at different speeds on a treadmill and at a single speed over ground.”

The conclusion: “Shock attenuation was between 66 percent and 76 percent for children running under a variety of conditions. Girls had greater peak impact accelerations at the leg and head levels than boys but achieved similar shock attenuation. We do not know how these shock attenuation characteristics are related to overuse injuries.”

From that, someone seems to have convinced an elected official of the State of Hawaii to introduce legislation that would ban kids from running at certain distances.

It’s the world we live in.

“I heard about it,” said Phoebe Wyatt, a 13 year-old distance runner for the Sunrise Athletics club team. “I didn’t understand why they would not allow kids to try running long distances, we do it because we want to.

“I do it,” she said, “because I love it, I love to go on a long run. I thought, ‘Why would they want to take something away from me that I love so much?’”

She may be as good an example as any for the people the ill-advised proposed legislation would target. Phoebe Wyatt, a student at Hilo Intermediate, has been running for eight years, since she was five, and became consumed with the idea.

“Nobody told me to do it, nobody forced me,” she said, “I just remember as a little kid seeing runners on television, I don’t even remember what it was, but it looked so cool, so fun, I thought, ‘I want to try that.’”

She’s been running ever since and yes, there have been some minor injuries, a patella strain, little things that runners use to distinguish their comfort zones from their danger zones.

“It doesn’t take long,” Wyatt said, “to know your body. Runners know their bodies, so it helps you learn about yourself while you have fun.”

Lance and Mary Jane Tominaga have been running the Sunrise Athletic Club for seven years, specializing in teaching young kids how to run properly and get the most enjoyment out of the activity.

“For us, we start with the knowledge that every kid is different,” Lance said, “some at a young age can run a 10K no problem, others can’t, so we try to get them all to develop at their own pace, create their own approach.

“We aren’t trying to develop Olympic champions, we are trying to give them the tools and the knowledge that will encourage them to be lifetime runners. It’s more about the fun you have, the camaraderie with people you may not know at first but who share your interests, we get people making new friends all the time.

“That social interaction might really be the glue to all of this, if it could ever be analyzed,” he said. “But unless you know what kind of runner you are, how you can improve and all the rest, you would never have a chance to meet those people and be a part of the running community.”

In the big picture, running, for human beings on this planet, has always been essential. Less so now with technology that allows us to sit in our chairs all day and watch people exercise if we so choose, but at some level, we all could benefit from running, regularly.

There was a time on the planet, as author Chris McDougall captured in his book “Born to Run,” that there were animals and human beings, but the humans didn’t have weapons. The assumption has always been that we hunted in packs back then, outlasting animals on the run, some of which could only go an hour or two.

We kept going until they fell.

In the 21st century, it’s possible for someone to go from cradle to grave without ever having to run, but what’s the fun in that?

Dylan Okinaka, a 15 year-old at Waiakea, watched his older sister Vandey run cross country at the school, and listened to her talk about it.

“It sounded like fun,” Okinawa said. “I thought I’d try it out and I kept with it because I met some friends and enjoyed it.”

For the last two years, he has competed on a relay team, running 10 of the 30-plus miles in the annual Hilo-to-Volcano run. He runs year round, it’s part of his life.

“I started because I turned out for basketball and realized I was out of shape,” said Jaeda Yamasaki, 15, who attends Christian Liberty Academy. “My mom wanted me to run to stay in good shape, too, so I tried.

“I really like it,” she said, “I feel happy when I do it because running a good distance helps me clear my mind, all the stressful things kind of go away. When I run for an hour or so? It’s a great feeling.”

It feels good, there are many coaches and clubs available to help young people get started, and, yes, it’s fun.


Hands off young runners, they’re doing fine without the help of politicians.

Tips, whistleblower alerts or questions? Contact Bart at barttribuneherald@gmail.com