Making Your Running a Family Affair

I’m in the running to be on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine and I’d love your vote!

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….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.

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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.

Running the CHaD Cam's Course Fun Run together in October 2013.

Running the CHaD Cam’s Course Fun Run together in October 2013.

Sophia's first 5k

Running Todd’s Trot together-Sophia’s first 5K.

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.

stroller runnn

First stroller run of the season.

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Early morning single stroller miles with my girl.

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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Daily Mile:





    • scanney says

      Beth thanks for your comment:) Sometimes I wish my husband was a runner, he is very active and lifts weights but doesn’t run. But then if he was a runner I think we’d have a hard time juggling two training schedules.

  1. says

    I love the cup analogy! We try to incorporate fitness into everything we do as a family. Some nights it’s a family plank contest or a push up contest or a pull up contest. My kids love going to the track or trail running. We are thinking about trying a 5K with them in the fall. My son is going to be 9 and my daughter is 6. It’s great to see how their personalities play a role in their fitness too. Gives you lots of insight into how to motivate them.

    • scanney says

      So true. I’ve learned so much about Sophia from running with her in the 5K this spring and then last night. It does give insights into their little personalities.

  2. Happy Fit Mama says

    The cup analogy is really good! I’ve been wanting to add more evening sessions with clubs, running with friends, etc but I think that will spill the whole cup. My kids are just getting into more into my running. We don’t do stroller runs anymore because I can’t fathom pushing that much weight around. But we do go out for a little run on their speed and just have fun with it. And of course, they are out at my races. It’s the best part of the race to see them for 3 seconds!

    • scanney says

      I love that boost of seeing my family along the course! It’s so hard to sacrifice family evenings for running commitments and often not worth it.

  3. misszippy1 says

    Love your point about not putting too much into the cup! Yes, it would be nice to add in that extra club workout, but sometimes it’s better for the family if you skip it. This is why I often run with my friends, but skip some of the extraneous social activities. Lots if great tips here!

    • scanney says

      Thanks Amanda. I wish I could participate in more of the social activities our club puts on, luckily some of them are family friendly like a pancake breakfast after a weekend morning run. Most club members host runs from their homes and host a breakfast after, which is really fun and a great way to engage with families in the club.

  4. says

    My husband isn’t a runner either. In fact he can’t really fathom going out on the road and just running all those miles. I love the perspective you share on being a mother runner with young kids. I can only imagine the extra energy you must have for those stroller runs. My running and racing has become more of a mother and daughter event. I love that my 13 year old daughter is asking to run more races with me. Running together is just one more opportunity for my daughter and I to stay connected during her teen years! Recently, she told me she wants to train for a few upcoming 10ks with me this coming year. Running with my 13 year old gives us precious time together. Sarah, thanks for sharing your tips on running as a family!

    • scanney says

      I loved seeing the pic of you guys recently! Running is a great way to stay connected and as Tara said earlier a great way to gain insights into their personality.

  5. says

    I feel so similarly- I don’t like how much time it can take away from family, but I try to do as many local race as possible and keep it as a family affair. I’m impressed your daughter has already done a 5k! Makes me wonder if mine might be up for it… hopefully in the next year.

    • scanney says

      That 5K was a big effort for Sophia and I was along side her with the stroller so she always had the option to ride. She rode a few times and then finished the last two miles almost completely on her own. It was such a great experience and gave me some insights into her personality.

  6. says

    Great tips! I don’t have any children but since I’ve started running it’s motivated my brothers, friends and parents to run! We’ve all run races together and they really enjoy it. I love that we’ve found a new family activity to share.
    Karen @karenlovestorun

    • scanney says

      That’s what happened with my family as well! My parents and sisters started running shortly after my first marathon. I’d love to get our whole family together for a reach the beach or something!

  7. Kirtley says

    Oooo good question about the spouse.
    My hub doesn’t love to run..but when I tell him I am going to do a race he suddenly wants to do it with me, and he does an awesome job.
    I like what you said about not forcing it…the best way to get someone interested is by example

    • scanney says

      My husband isn’t a big runner, in fact he only ran with me while we were dating…once we got engaged he stopped. Haha. But he is incredibly supportive and acts as my coach a lot.

  8. says

    Great post and perspective. It’s certainly about what fits and what doesn’t – and is even harder when both parents are runners! When I was in full training mode for my half and my husband training for Boston, it was tough but we made it work. Now that the weather is nice we’ve been going on a lot of family runs. We do a lot of NH/local races and also pick and choose races carefully. We don’t always both run the race so that way our daughter can attend some with us even though she’s still really young. Same thing with club events – can’t do them all so we pick and choose. It will certainly be interesting to see how our family running dynamic changes as she gets older/we have another child.

    • scanney says

      That’s great that you guys can do it together! My husband isn’t much of a runner so he is always in support role…I need to be mindful of that and give him a break sometimes.

  9. says

    I absolutely love this post Sarah. I have two children as well and every time I go for my runs my son always asks if he can come with me. I usually let him run a little bit during my cool down. He is only 4.5 and has the attention span of my little finger. :) Having him run with me is great for him since it seems to keep him focused on something for longer periods of time. I hope that he wants to run more with me as he gets older and when my daughter is older, she is almost 3, I hope she wants to do it too. I love the cup analogy. I try to get my runs in early in the mornings but sometimes have to do them at night. Much more than that doesn’t always work for our family since my husband travels for work and is gone most of the day. I’d love to do more Barre classes and PT and massage things but it just doesn’t work for us right now. I’d be gone when my husband is home and the time with everyone here is very precious to me so I don’t want to miss out. I also can’t quite rationalize the cost of a sitter. One day I know things will shift though. This is a great outlook, thanks for sharing!

    • scanney says

      I’m glad you liked the post. It is always a challenge to find what works for your family. Everyone is different and there are different solutions to different seasons:)

  10. says

    Eeeeee! I love this!!!! I just did a post on ways to encourage your kids to be active and this goes hand in hand. I love the full / overflowing cup comparison!!!! It all kinda goes along with the whole finding the right balance for you and your family. It is great to have some running “me” time, but then it is also great to include my family in it too!!!! There are so many fun and motivational ways to get the kids involved…you just have to find them and be creative!

  11. says

    These are great tips! I am not yet a mom but I plan to still race when I am and it’s always great to read about people who successfully manage both (and are honest about the highs and lows).

    • scanney says

      Thank you! Glad you thought it was insightful. It can be a struggle sometimes, but the joy of having your family involved with something you love is worth it:)

  12. Sarah Hussey says

    Sarah- I loved that last bit about not having your cup overflowing… It is a way to look at it. I have a tough time, as my husband does not share in my excitement for running, and does not understand my need for the longer runs on the weekends. I’m hoping that with time he will… I love how your family gets into the races. Jonathan just watched me run a 7k yesterday, and he asked if he could do a race next time- So I’m thinking of signing him up for the CHaD Cam’s course :) Keep up the awesome work Sarah!!! I love your writing :)

    • scanney says

      I loved that picture of you!! I also am married to a guy who doesn’t run, but I feel lucky that his PT background gives him and understanding of what it takes to train for the distances I want to train for. It is tough and does take a ton of time, but I think that’s why it’s good to have seasons of hard training and then rest.


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