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After my first child was born, I was so excited to enter the ranks of the stroller running moms. I had visions of a smiling child and happy mom logging endless miles together. But the reality was oh-so-different. My oldest son was not a fan of the stroller (or really anything that impeded his movement) for the first 18 months of his life. He would last maybe 10-15 minutes before the crying began.
It was a frustrating situation. I’m sure other running mamas have been in my position before. First you are annoyed with your child and their inability to sit still for more than 10 minutes. Then you question your parenting and worry you are doing something wrong. And then you wonder if maybe stroller running moms are an urban legend. They do exist and I can now say that I am mom of two little boys who not only tolerate, but LIKE, being in the stroller, and are content to stay more than 2-3 miles at a time.
We sporadically ran over the summer, but it wasn’t consistent or much more than a few miles due to the warm temperatures. However, with fall approaching, I’m trying to incorporate a lot more stroller running into my training. I’ve gone on five runs with my little guys in the last ten days—ranging from 3 to 10 miles. They sat for the 80+ minute 10-miler with no complaining nor with me having to stop once.
Below are some things I’ve done to extend the length of each run while also making the experience enjoyable and FUN for them!
Sometimes there are runs with zero stops. But more often than not, I stop every mile or so to pick up a toy that fell, let them get out to look at a flower or bug or just end the run so they can play on the beach. It’s easy to get frustrated with my children when I have to stop, especially when I finally find a rhythm, but I try to remind myself that the purpose of the run isn’t to run a certain time or distance. It’s to spend time with them while I am running.
I’ve learned that some days are good and some are less than ideal for stroller running. I don’t have a set number of miles I plan to run when we start. It’s a fluid goal that often changes based on how they are doing or if they fell asleep. I never want the boys to dislike being in the stroller, so if they seem antsy or just not that into it that day, we stop. If I really want to run the miles, I will do it on the treadmill later in the day or at night after my husband gets home.
Stay close to “home”:
We often run in one of two parks close to my home that have safe out and back stretches between 1.5-2 miles. The short distance comes in handy on days where things escalate from bad to worse in an instant. It prevents me from having to run with a crying or upset child for more than 10-15 minutes.
When my oldest son was younger, I would leave just before his naptime. This often meant around 10 minutes of awake time, 30-60 minutes of sleep time, and 10-15 more minutes of awake time before he got antsy. This allowed for a pretty good distance to be covered! These days, we head out early morning (8-9am) and my youngest will almost always doze off for 30+ minutes.
Snacks, Drinks, and Other Distractions:
We bring a couple of snack options and some water regardless of how short or long we plan to run:
- Small Bags of Snacks that are easy to hold and eat: Cheerios, fruit snacks, pretzels. This will often keep the boys occupied for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Lollipops: I bring mini ones so they aren’t as messy and I can give them more than 1 without overdosing on sugar.
- Bagels or peanut butter sandwich: Easy to hold and eat (and eats up a lot of time!)
- Books: I’ve learned that even if they don’t want a book at the start of the run, they will probably ask for it a few miles in. I always keep a couple in the basket that I can easily grab if necessary.
These are often done in the beginning of the run when I have the most energy (and haven’t lost my breath yet!):
- Search: We take turns looking for shapes, objects and animals and then the other person has to find them.
- Alphabet: I say a letter and he has to say a word that starts with that letter. Or we reverse it (I say a word and he tells me the letter).
- Counting: I pick something (tires, birds, cars, etc) and the boys have to count how many we pass
I’ve just recently started playing music for the boys on my phone. We listen to the Sesame Street Channel on Pandora. It’s a mix of Sesame Street songs, other kid songs, and music from Disney movies.
This works wonders. One park is a few blocks from their cousins’ house and the other park has a playground along the route. I promise them that we can stop at their cousin’s or play in the playground if mommy can run another few minutes or miles.
This is my last resort. I’ll give them either my phone or iPad (they each get one) which have some games and activities that can entertain them for the remainder of the run.