Running became my main form of exercise shortly after I became a mom.
By Lee Sandford
Running became my main form of exercise shortly after I became a mom. Through most of my 20s it was good old aerobic and step aerobic classes, wearing of course the obligatory crop-tops and Nike Hi Tops. However, not long after my six-week post-natal check, I realized my son was pretty inconsiderate in co-coordinating his mealtimes with class times, so I needed something more flexible.
Almost 15 years later, I can track my running career not in Personal Bests and races run in exotic locales, but in new jogging strollers, remembering at which race I told my running partner I was pregnant again, or recalling favorite race-day playgrounds in Central Park.
My first-ever race was when my eldest was around 4 months old — an all-women’s 10K, in the days when that was still quite novel. We still lived in Scotland, but during a trip to New York when he was 8 weeks old, I began training in the hotel fitness room, with him sleeping in the bucket seat beside the treadmill. That trip was also key in the mommy-running memoirs in that we were able to purchase what was at the time cutting-edge, a three-wheeled, elongated jogging stroller, as yet unavailable in Scotland. I was quite the spectacle when I ran around Glasgow with it, old ladies stopping me with comments ranging from “Gosh I wish they’d had them instead of that unwieldy Silver Cross I used to have,” to “Are you sure he’s OK in that contraption? Did your husband build that from old bikes?”
In addition to a well-oiled jogging stroller, well-timed feeds, and two, preferably three, layers of support under your T-shirt, were the key elements in that training era. Pre-race prep involved planning for ten hours of sleep, but getting four, and race-day prep involved even better-timed feeds and passing off baby to husband on the starting gun. Post-race celebration for that first race was a walk back to the house and painting a room in the new family house during naptime.
That regimen remained the same for two years, until my daughter came along, which meant a step-change in my training program, from green single jogging stroller, to twice-the-size, but, bafflingly, three-times the weight, bright purple double jogging stroller. Other runners take water and hi-tech nutrition gels or bars, but a running mom carries a bottle of formula and Goldfish snacks.
I must have thought that was too easy, because shortly after moving to Rye, I entered the New York Marathon. The summer phase of the Marathon year involved the daunting task, not only of pushing the double stroller, but also of finding the mental energy to answer a continuous stream of random toddler questions. Come early fall, as the 20-mile training runs kicked in, things were slightly easier with them in nursery school for just long enough to get the run in, and maybe one errand, but never long enough that I was showered by pick-up time. When I once turned up showered and dressed in real clothes, my son didn’t recognize me. Seriously!
With my third child, for reasons that escape me, I ran two half-marathons while pregnant. When I check my New York Road Runners history, the first clue to my condition is the slower times, and when I look at the dates, I remember, “Oh yes, of course, those more frequent Porta Potty stops along the way!”
All these memories came to mind as I trained and prepped for my most recent races. My kids were no hindrance to my training and I think all ripples were only positive for them and me. To their joy, the family favorite homemade pasta dish made an appearance once a week, the night before my long run, instead of once a month. They also noticed, as the weeks went on, that I was growing tired of my old play lists and downloaded some catchy current stuff instead, which was on my tab when their father audited the iTunes bill.
From my side, I like that they “get it.” The older kids are well aware of what constitutes an impressive mile pace, and of how tough sprint challenges like the “beep test” are.
But the biggest differences are the pre-race prep and post-race celebrations. Pre-race is a hotel on-site, pasta for one, lights out at 9, up at 6, and walk to the start. As for post-race, rather than the 1999 days of spooning baby food and redecorating a bedroom with aching knees, I’ll take the 2013 version with champagne brunch in a suite at the Waldorf, and a late night out in Manhattan with a bunch of giddy 13.1-ers who should know better, please!