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'The beauty of Siberia took me by surprise'
Ian Frazier, 2013

Ready, steady, go! It's the Siberian 'nappy marathon'

By The Siberian Times reporter
21 August 2012

Organisers will soon take entries for the 2012 race - officially known as the 'Crawlers' Competition'.

Come on, baby! Crawlers competition in Novosibrisk, Siberia. Picture: Alina Sinikova,

Babies aged nine months and under compete to cover a seven metre distance. They've got two minutes to complete the nappy rush course. 

'We must make all the rules fair so we check birth certificates to ensure none of the competitors is a day over the allowed age,' said an organiser. 

And you can see from the faces of the parents - more than the babies - how seriously they take it. 

Perhaps it will be the key to future Russian Olympic successes. 

But for now every runner -  pardon, crawler! - gets a prize for taking part. 

The rules are that parents are not allowed to touch the infant athletes but they can cajole, encourage, smile, chat, wave toys, make funny faces, anything to get their little ones over the line as fast as possible. 

Novosibirsk Marathon

Novosibirsk Marathon

Rules prohinit parents from touching the athletes. Picture: Alina Sinikova,

It doesn't always work, needless to say, and sometimes the crawlers, who each have an official bib (at least they should be used to that bit!) go into other lanes - or even back over the star line, but in the end a good spirit is maintained. Hopefully. 

The event is part of the annual Siberian Running Festival, otherwise known as the Novosibirsk Marathon, and it is aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle. Anyone and everyone can take part, from professional sportsmen and women to those aged 70 and over. And, of course, crawlers. 

The nappy marathon is organised in a warm tent, protecting from rain or strong wind or other inclement weather in September.  

The crawling track is on soft mats on the floor. 

The 2011 champion, beating all comers, was Nikita Zhulin. He wasn't available for a podium interview on his gold medal victory but his mother Tatiana Zhulina said: 'We were into a kind of routine: he woke up, had his meal, then a play and a walk, went to sleep....and all over again. And suddenly we heard about this marathon, where even the smallest ones can take part! Of course we were in! 

'So came the marathon morning. Nikita, then nine months old, got the Number 5 bib - and he was one among 60 others crawlers, so the competition was to be very tough'. 

Nikita Zhulin, Novosibirsk Marathon

Nikita Zhulin starts his triumphant crawl, with a bit of help from mother Tatiana. Picture: Alina Sinikova,

Recalling the pre-marathon tension, she explained: 'Babies are chatting away, parents are nervously getting ready, photographers are swirling around with cameras - its a feeling of a true competition. 

'And off we go. Parents have been using all sorts of attractions to help their little ones crawl faster: toys, cameras, laptops, phones. 

'We had only taken a pear, and a babushka (grandmother)! But it worked - Nikita was the fastest of all, he managed to crawl the distance within some 15 seconds! Yay!

'It was a fantastic day, and thanks to marathon organisers for thinking of this idea. It's so rare that you can go to a public event with the baby when he or she is still so young.'

Novosibirsk marathon

Do I have to, Mum? Family and friends cheer on one of the crawlers, encouraging her to keep going.

Picture: Alina Sinikova,

Another onlooker called Sergei was captivated by what he saw. 

'I went to watch the crawling race with my friend because his son was taking part,' he said.

'I didn't really expect anything interesting - but then I was completely taken by it.

'It's was impossible not to smile, watching so many babies crawling at the same time. Next time I hope my little one will be able to take part.'

Marathon director Yevgeniy Gusev, 30, said: 'Of course we welcome young participants from foreign countries too.

'We'll make sure that the conditions will be perfect, even if the weather wont be that stable. Though usually we have a dry and warm early September. 

'We'll put a big tent out.

'If suddenly it gets cold, we will heat it.  There will be nice mats to crawl on, and full support from Siberian families. Just note that we would ask you to show documents confirming the baby's age. For this competition, we only accept athletes aged maximum nine months. 

'We wanted to organise a true running Festival, so people of any age - literally any, even if they are not big enough to walk -- can join us.

'This is how the idea with babies crawling their distance was brought in. We want them to love running from a very early age indeed.

'And yes, to prepare our next Olympic champions you've got to start when they are still in their nappies.'

At least there are no doping tests! 

Comments (2)

@Sandra: many Russian parents would see it as a great way to spend time together with their babies. There is nothing about being pushy here! Keeps the whole family entertained, and shows that sport is fun... dont take it so serious:)
Maria, Siberia
22/08/2012 19:44
Poor babes with these push parents.
Sandra Hill, Bexhill
22/08/2012 16:27

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