Motherhood and Marathons

For the past several months I have been training for an upcoming race. Like almost any adult orientated activity this is not always easy to do with small children. However we have settled into a comfortable groove with running where I feel good about my weekly mileage and training schedule. Furthermore I have realized running with small children has some incredible advantages…I will get to those in a minute. First let me share what running with three small children and a dog actually looks like.

My oldest, age 5, rides his bike. My youngest, age 10 months, sits in the double jogging stroller. My middle, age 3, wants to ride his bike but cannot maintain the speed, distance, or attention for that. Our compromise is that he runs with me the first several blocks and then sits in the stroller. My dog’s leash is attached to the stroller. Okay so now you hopefully have a visual of the five of us running together. ūüôā

Initially I spent a great deal of effort trying to run without my kids; waking up early, succumbing to the treadmill, or going for late evening runs. For various reasons these options just didn’t work and I was dissatisfied with my running. I decided I needed to somehow make it work that I could run during the day with my kids. I will be honest that I initially viewed this as a burden, but slowly over time I actually started to really enjoy having them as running partners.¬†Additionally I quickly realized during races¬†the benefits of¬†having done most of my training with the kids. Here’s how:

Preparedness – Pre-kid days I could just grab my shoes and go for a long run. Now getting us ready for a run is almost more work than the run itself. Like most outings with small children, I pack water, snacks, and little toys to occupy them in the stroller. I nurse my youngest and change his diaper¬†so¬†that (hopefully, fingers crossed) he will be content to sit in the stroller¬† for the duration of the run. I always bring my ERGObaby carrier with just in case. I make sure kids are dressed comfortably; not too warm and not too cold. I have learned little things like this can make or break a run. I also briefly inspect the tires on the bike and stroller. We’ve done way too many runs only to discover half way¬†through the run there was a slow leak in a tire that eventually becomes flat¬† (desert terrain = lots of unfriendly thorns).¬†Not a fun experience by any means!¬†However the¬†need to physically prepare for a run has translated into¬†feeling more mentally prepared to handle any surprises a race throws at me.

Accountability – My oldest son really enjoys riding his bike on our runs. Often he will ask me “are we going for a run today”. His spirits keep me motivated and on track with training. We do¬†between 15-20 miles together during the week and I largely attribute that to my oldest son’s enthusiasm for our runs. Maintaining a consistent running schedule is much easier when you have a five your old nagging you about it.

Resistance Training – Pushing 50lbs of kids definitely adds to the running experience. However the real challenge is the 70lb frisky dog pulling the stroller off center or at a different pace. So while I am pushing the stroller, I am also often pulling it. Whenever I get to run without having this added upper body workout, it’s tons easier to simply just run.

Focusing inward– We get a lot (a lot is a kind of an understatement here) of looks and comments when we run together. Add occasionally talking on the cell phone while I run or running in barefeet and the stares and comments multiply. It’s really forced me to turn inward and not be distracted by the¬†energy of others. During a race there are so many distractions both visually and¬†auditorily that sometimes it can be difficult to just simply focus on running. Running with the kids brings a lot of unwanted attention that I have learned to easily tune out extraneous stimuli and maintain a positive space.

Increased Speed– Running with kids and a dog make it incredibly difficult to pace myself. If there¬†is another dog ahead of us on the trail, my dog significantly speeds up. My 5 year old often rides his bike faster than my comfortable running pace which means I am sometimes running rather fast to catch up to him. Also sometimes my little ones are simply¬†just done with being in the stroller (ie-lots of¬†whining and fussing) in which case I pick up the pace to get us home quickly. During a race when I am stripped of the need to care for anyone else, it’s quite liberating and my running feels¬†so¬†smooth.

I used to run away from my kids…both literally and figuratively. The act of running was completely mine. It was my escape from motherhood and I felt really resitant to including my children depsite running being one of my favorite activities. Once I opened up myself to sharing this activity with them, my running changed for the better. I really believe they truly are among the best training partners one could ask for!


Me and my training team post race


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4 Responses to “Motherhood and Marathons”

  1. Kathleen says:

    Your post is very timely! I got into running after having baby #2 trying to lose those last few pounds and got addicted. Now that baby #3 is on the way, I am thinking about signing up for my first full marathon about 7 months after my due date, but am a little wary of the training schedule. When I trained for my first 1/2 marathon a few weeks ago, I was waking up as early as 3am some days to get my runs in and I found myself being short with my older kids throughout the day. You inspire me to be able to run with all three kids… now if only I can get my oldest (who will be 3 by the time I start training) to be my motivator! ūüôā

  2. Karen says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your beautifully written and inspiring story Sarah! What a wonderful way to train, AND spend time with your kids…and by example teaching them so many life lessons in the process. So proud of the amazing young woman, mother and runner you have become. <3

  3. Laura C says:

    Oh, plus I love the way you casually, and ALMOST without notice, throw in there that you’re also a barefoot runner!!

  4. Laura C says:

    Wow, Sarah, you are a total inspiration! One of your last comments, “I used to run away from my kids‚Ķboth literally and figuratively. The act of running was completely mine. It was my escape from motherhood and I felt really resitant to including my children depsite running being one of my favorite activities,” really hits home. It’s challenging to me to think about letting my kids “in” on this with me… but maybe 2012 is the year for me to try.
    You’re gonna ROCK THIS RACE’S FACE OFF!!! ūüôā