When I step back and tally up the amount of time that goes into my running, I realize it is a lot. And it’s not just the time on the road it’s the cross training, the running club meetings and track workouts, the physical therapy and massage appointments, the race and time getting to races. It adds up and most of that time is spent on my own away from my family. Often times I need that alone time. In many ways running brings focus to everything else I do. I like to think of my time on the road as “moving meditation;” without it I’d be pretty scattered and crazy (more so than I am already). Running gives me the space to mentally prepare for the challenges I face on a daily bases.
But it is important to me that my family feel included in what I do: that my running is a family affair not just something that Mommy does. It’s not always easy to do so, but for me it is worth it. There are some very deliberate decisions I make and ways that I structure my running that enable my family to feel a part of what I do. I thought I’d share a few of them here:
Run Locally. For the most part I try to choose local races that are a short drive (I’d consider less than an hour a shorter drive). Thanks to the growing number of local races I don’t have to go look to far for some of my favorites. It is a little more challenging when it comes to the longer races, like marathon distances. My most recent marathons have been in Maine, Sugarloaf (3 hour drive) and Portland ( one hour drive). Keeping it local means that I have enough time to get everyone ready in the morning, get to the race with enough time to warm up, race, cool down and get home before nap time. When it was just Mark and I used to travel farther distances for races, but we’re just in a different season of life now and local is better for us. This means I don’t travel to a lot of destination races (believe me I’d love to!), because it’s just not right for our family.
Race Day Fun Pack. I have a race day “fun pack” filled with cowbells, party blowers and other noise makers. This bag only comes out for races (not in my living room thank.you.very.much….well, sometimes in my living room:). Races are a great time to for your kids to let the crazy out. Harness their energy for a rousing cheering section. Plus having “special toys” for race day gives them something to look forward to.
Join a Family Friendly Running Club. There are a lot of competitive running clubs, some clubs are more socially inclined and meet for pub runs. I’m a member of a the Rochester Runners Club, which is very family oriented. I want to be competitive and run strong, but not at the expense of my family. So I love the fact that I can do both in the club that I’m in. Just last night we had our annual club 5K and kids fun run. Sophia and Jack had so much fun.
Run Together. When you can run together, whether it is a family fun run or a 5K choose a day to leave your racing shoes at home and just go at the family pace, it can be really fun to do something as a family. Crossing the line of a 5K towards the back of the pack can give you a whole new, and very beneficial perspective.
Stroller Runs. For the most part my runs are early in the morning mostly because those early morning runs give me the time I need to mentally prepare for the day ahead. Recently Sophia has been asking to join me in the mornings and I have been enjoying her company. Whether it is an early morning single stroller run with Sophia or a midday stroller run with pushing the double, I really enjoy having my two kids along for the ride. Their incessant questions give me a different perspective and help me see new things. It also gives them a chance to feel like they are part of what I do.
Don’t force It. For the most part my family comes to all my races. Sometimes, however it’s better for the family to stay home. Usually that’s when a race start is unusually early: too early to get everyone up and out the door in time. Or if the weather is bad. That was the case this year at the Eastern States 20 Miler. The original plan was for the whole family to come, cheer along the course and then meet me at the finish line. But the weather report looked brutal (it WAS brutal 37 degrees and raining) so it was better that my family stayed dry and warm at home than be dragged out to a race just for the sake of “doing it all together.”
Don’t Put too Much In. A full cup is happy cup. Add more and the cup overflows, making a mess. This is the conversation my husband and I had recently in relation to running. At the point we are at right now with my running as it relates to our family is just right. If I were to add one more thing, for example hill workouts with my running club on a different night other than track, it would be too much. The cup would overflow and make a mess. And though I might have an immediate gain of fitness thanks to a great group workout, I’d lose a piece of my family. As it currently stands my running endeavors can be beneficial to our family. Not only do I gain a greater awareness of myself and a certain confidence by setting goals and working towards them, but I’m also setting an example to my kids. They see the hard work and they see it paying off.
Just yesterday on our stroller run Sophia asked, “Mommy, did you win that race here?” as we ran the Red’s Race course.
“No, I didn’t there was someone faster.”
“But you won the Peeper race.”
“Yeah. I did.”
“You trained really hard for that one.”
Big smile. Wow. She thinks I train hard. Bigger smile.
It is just as important for my kids to see me handle disappointment as it is for them to see me work hard and win. The disappointment of a race or that of an injury. They are watching and pick up on everything.
Every runner and every runner’s family is different. You have to know your family and what they can and can’t tolerate. It’s important to figure out what fills the cup just right and what overflows the cup. And also recognize that there are seasons to running and to life, sometimes we train hard and focus on running and other times we pull back and shift focus. There is not right or wrong way. I don’t even think there is necessarily a perfect balance. There’s an ebb and flow, and learning how to work within that shifting dynamic will help you and your family run happy.
Do you try to incorporate your family into your running? Or is running “your thing”? How does your spouse feel about your running endeavors?
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com
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