I was a mother for five and a half years before I became a runner. I survived colic, various illnesses, one round of potty training, daycare, preschool and Kindergarten before I started running. I’ve got a freshman in high school now (how did that happen?) and when I look back over their childhoods – please not over yet! – I see that being a mother-runner, or a mother who runs, is something that develops in stages.
Running Away – The Tough Early Years
When I first started, my kids thought I was running away from them, and sometimes that was true. I started running when my children were 1.5 and 5.5 years old. My daughter cried almost every time she saw me get ready to leave the house. She didn’t understand that when I raced, I would come back. But when I arrived at the finish line, no one cheered harder. Even tiny kids can make good cheerleaders if you keep them sufficiently well-fed and hydrated.
Running With – The Glory Days
For a few precious years, my son would run with me. These were glorious runs. I did not care that he mostly wanted to talk about MineCraft. I did not care that I usually had to motivate him with Swedish fish or some other treat. I did not care that we often had to make multiple stops during a 5K to adjust clothing or to walk for a bit. Sometimes he would bust out a massive finishing kick and leave me in the dust. I would still slow down or add mileage any time to get miles with my kids. This phase didn’t last nearly as long as I would have liked. If your kids run with you, treasure that time.
Running Support – Where We Are Now
My kids are 10 and 14 now. I’m sure neither of them remembers a time when I didn’t run. They flop around in front of the TV with me when I watch marathons and my daughter can not only tell you who just won Boston – she can tell you which Americans qualified for the Olympic marathon in 2016 when she was 8. I love our shared marathon spectating sessions.
The kids still come watch my races too, though not every single one. Figuring out which races are family friendly has been a process. Getting happy kids at a race involves a significant spousal investment, at least in my family. I’m grateful when it works. Both kids complained about the early start time for my most recent half marathon, but we bribed them with brunch. My daughter is still a huge cheerleader. One of her favorite mom-running memories is giving me her “blue drink” – some kind of Dunkin Donuts concoction – during the overly-hot Vermont City marathon. My son is old enough to take great finish line pictures and can be trusted to hold my stuff anytime I need a Sherpa.
There is no doubt that parenthood and running are both mentally and physically challenging. I could be overly trite and say that they both get easier with time and practice, but I don’t necessarily think that is true. From my experiences as both a mother and a runner, I have learned that both how we parent and how we run changes with time. Motherhood makes me a stronger runner and running makes me a stronger mother and I am eternally grateful for both of these things in my life.
How has your running and parenting evolved as your kids have grown up?