Racing with a Stroller

Keeping hydrated for his first 5k debut!
Keeping hydrated for his 5k debut!

This Saturday, I ventured out to semi-race my first 5k equipped with a jogging stroller and a 23 pound 11 month-old. My take-away from the experience? Racing while pushing a stroller is a completely different animal from racing without one! However, racing with the stroller can be great way to enjoy the camaraderie of a race and share the experience with your little one. Bonus: you can race without a baby sitter! As long as you’re prepared for the different challenge racing with a stroller poses, it’s great!

I hadn’t planned to race with the stroller, but when my husband asked if it would be okay for him to go play 18 holes of golf with his boss Saturday morning, it was time to improvise so we could both get the recreation we so desperately need and love. So much for throwing on a sports bra and shorts and whipping my hair into a ponytail and heading out the door. This change of plans called for a little more preparation.

How to Pack and Prep for a Stroller Race

Pack a diaper/wipes and an extra outfit as those in diapers usually picks the worst times for their blow-outs.

Bring snacks: a bottle for extra little ones, squeezie pouches, cereal, or fruit. For a little insurance and if your kid is old enough perhaps throw in something extra special like a lollypop in case of meltdown.

Bring drinks: you won’t be the only one needing to stay hydrated. Pick a container that won’t spill all over the place! A wet kid in a stroller is not a happy kid in a stroller!

Consider your restroom options: If you’re kid isn’t old enough to stand in a porta-potty with you, try to empty your bladder and take care of your restroom issues as much as you can prior to the race. Most races only have porta potties and unless you have someone else there with you to hold your baby, it’s pretty impossible to use a portapottie.

The shorter the race, the less of a big deal it is if you forget something! I tend to be a somewhat minimalist and may have forgotten some other key items; but this was just a 5k, I didn’t feel like I had to overpack.

The Benefits of Racing with a Stroller

The race was delayed about 15 minutes due to a snafoo with the road closures, so I was panicking a bit about timing as my son tends to get hungry every few hours or so. I was glad I had those cheerios to hold him over. He also tends to get bored and a little fussy if he’s sitting in the stroller for too long. But, once the gun went off and the legs got going, I realized there were some perks of having a jogging stroller during the race.

You can have your cell phone, car keys and a few bucks with you the whole time! I just plopped them in the storage area of the stroller.

You don’t have to go back to your car after checking in (if you don’t want to); I just put the race shirt underneath the stroller.

People will give you lots of compliments as you pass by! It gave me extra motivation to push a little harder up those hills. I heard all of the following comments:

“Well, that will humble you! She has a stroller and toddler and is beating us!”
“I’m embarrassed! I need to get in better shape; you’re passing me up hill with a stroller and baby!”
“You go, mama!”

The Downsides of Racing with a Stroller

Of course, there were other parts of the first 5k race stroller experience that weren’t so beautiful:

Stroller runners get a bad rap. The race officials kept shouting, “Runners in the front, walkers in the middle and strollers behind the walkers!” I tend to maintain a 8:00 – 8:30 pace running with the stroller and starting all the way at the back behind people who were walking at a 15-minute plus pace was not very easy! I snuck up a little closer to the runners. Shouldn’t you line up where you would running your pace without a stroller?

The course might not be very stroller friends. During my race their was a lot of bottlenecking and narrow sections that were a problem. I tried to stay to the edge of the course to give myself extra space but this meant I had to go up and down sidewalk curves with a stroller. Not so fun. There were also stones and potholes on this particular course. Safety is even more important with a baby on the course, so just expect to have to slow down a couple of times to make sure you avoid bumps and don’t try to weave in and out of other people.

This little booger wasn't too impressed with running a 5k with his mom. He was a little sweaty, impatient and ready to get home and CRAWL!
This little booger wasn’t too impressed with running a 5k with his mom. He was a little sweaty, impatient and ready to get home and CRAWL!

Babies might not enjoy the race as much as you thought! Connor began crying at about mile 2.7. I had to stop, get out the cheerios and remind him that I was still there! He calmed down and I was able to finish, but don’t bank on having a seamless race!

Some races, particularly 5Ks and 10Ks, allow strollers on the course. Some do not. The race website will usually let you know; if in doubt, just contact the race director. Though your pace might slow down ( mine usually slows by about 20 seconds) and you need to focus more on safety than a PR, racing with a stroller can certainly be done!

Have you ever raced with a stroller? Do you have any tips for stroller racing success?

I'm a new momma, full-time non-profiter, and coffee lover. I write about healthy body image, half marathon training, and recovery from eating disorders. I'm currently training to maintain fitness throughout the winter and break 1:27:00 in my next half marathon.

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  1. I can’t believe your son is about to turn 1! What a handsome little dude 🙂

    As for stroller racing, the only time I raced with a stroller was in a very popular and hilly race. It was very difficult navigating crowds of slower runners with a giant double stroller. I made the mistake of lining up in the middle and was crawling for the first 1.5 miles until I could finally get around people. I’s highly reccomend smaller races if you’re going to race with a stroller so you don’t get jammed in a crowd or constantly have to worry about someone running in front of you and you mowing them down! I would definitely figure out about what pace you think you’ll run and lining up according to that and not some lame “strollers in the back” nonsense. That makes no sense and is frankly insulting to us who can fly with their strollers 😉 I see mostly men racing with strollers, actually, and I wonder if race directors would tell them to get in the back? So annoying!

  2. I am going to do my first stroller 5k with my 5 month old (she has amazing neck control and is great on stroller runners up to about 5 miles so far!) in a month. I am really nervous because I am a RACER haha I tend to go fast. I want to be able to see what I can do with a stroller to try and make new PR’s as a stroller runner. Any suggestions on speed training with a stroller, or ways to get faster with one?