Running with Children

Guest Blogger Luis Bueno


We have them. We care for them. We love them. We…. can’t run because of them?


Beloved offspring bring many things to their doting parents’ lives – unconditional love, endless supplies of bottles and diapers, introduction to new vocabulary words such as “binky” and “owie”  – but an insurmountable obstacle to running should not be one of them.

If you are planning on having your first child, have a few young’ins crawling/walking/running around at home or have some older children long past the diaper stage, running does not have to be a part of the past, or something to take up again once the children turn 18.

If you are training or even considering training for any of The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon’s events on July 29, 2012 with a child or children in your house, a few tried-and-true pointers on how to juggle children and 12-mile runs might be worth your time.

Embrace The ‘Mill

Hate to break it to you, but the treadmill can absolutely be a running parent’s best friend. Yes, a treadmill can be downright dreadful for the average runner but when faced with the choice of either running on the ‘mill or not running at all, there is not really much of a choice to make.

Gyms often have a place for workout-conscious parents to leave their children while they lift weights or take spin classes, so take advantage of the gym’s generosity and learn to love the treadmill. Now, the treadmill is not a great place to get your long runs in but for cranking out 3- to 6-mile midweek runs and, in particular, speed work the ‘mill serves a great purpose. Drop the kids off in the childcare portion of the gym, stand before the treadmill and form a bond. And while you’re on it, remember that it’s either the treadmill or nothing, and that may help speed up the bonding process.

Perhaps a better option than the gym is to have your own treadmill at home, but such a device can be costly. Still, maybe there is a well-meaning, misguided family member who bought a treadmill a while back that is now collecting dust in their place of residence, so be sure and volunteer your services to host the treadmill in such an instance.

Strolling Along

For new parents who may not be able to leave baby at the gym, a jogging stroller isperhaps a better option than a treadmill.

Two-time San Francisco Marathon veteran Tina Holt Hollands recently joined the ranks of the running parents. The 10-time marathoner had her first baby in May 2011 and has logged many jogging stroller miles with Baby Rosalie in tow.

“I love my jogging stroller,” says Tina. “I love that we can spend time together when I am out on a run. I love her talking to me when we run. We discuss colors, trees, cars and trucks, and say hi to others. Running with the jogger is ideal now that I am a mom. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to run with her. It is difficult but easier than I thought (it would be) when I was pregnant. I think I eased into running with her and the stroller.”

As with any major purchase, Tina researched the jogging stroller, asked fellow runners for advice and scoured the Web for customer reviews, finally settling on the Ironman Sport Utility Stroller. They’re not cheap, as prices start at more than $300, but such an investment was rather inconsequential to the doors it opened for Tina.

“Having a jogging stroller means that I can go out and run,” said Tina, a resident of Redlands, Calif. “Maybe my runs are slower and my style has changed but I never have to find someone to watch her while I run. We enjoy the outdoors and I am able to incorporate my daughter and my passion. I want her to see me enjoying exercise, being outside and being healthy. I want her to find passion in activities. I’m not sure if this works, but I think if she sees me being active and healthy she will want to be healthy, active and be passionate about something. I would love her to run with me when she is older, but if she doesn’t I will have my memories of her running with me.”

Round And Round

Are your children past the toddler stage? Perhaps you have a preschooler or a bona fide elementary school student at home. The local track might become your own personal theme park. There won’t be any fantasy lands there but the local high school will provide you with plenty of free and rewarding time to get your miles in.

Now, this isn’t an open-ended annual pass. Schools are in session, of course, nearly 200luis days of the year, which means that for nearly 200 mornings you won’t be able to rely on the track. But barring an athletic event or other sort of organized activity taking place at the track, the school should be open and available for most nights and weekends and a wealth of summer days and holidays.

Pack some snacks, some entertainment for the children (books, toys, a handheld video game system, etc.), situate them out of harm’s way and get to running. Or bring the kids’ bicycles, skateboards, scooters, etc. and have them circle the track once or twice. Or even better have them run a lap or three before pulling out the entertainment.

It Takes A Village

Running, like parenting in general, requires a team effort. Long runs are perhaps the one time where a spouse, partner, family member or trusted friend is not a luxury but a necessity. As tempting as it may seem, you can’t leave your 8-year-old home alone to go running… not that we’ve ever had that thought cross our mind… ever.

But leaving your child, whether he or she is eight months or eight years old, with someone near and dear to your heart is perhaps the only option when cracking double digits. So hand over the childcare duties to your loved one, grab your hydration belt and energy gels and head out on your long run while visions of the Golden Gate Bridge dance in your head.

Runners have of course logged long runs on the treadmill and while pushing a jogging stroller. In fact, Zac Freudenburg and Michael Wardian finished 1-2 in the 2009 Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Okla., while pushing strollers. Freudenburg finished in 2:32:10 while Wardian came in at 2:34:37.
Whatever the case, whether you rely on the treadmill, a jogging stroller, your local high school track or family and friends to help with the children, as long as you are standing on The Embarcadero on July 29 with a bib pinned on your shirt, it will all have been worth it.

Tips From San Francisco Marathon Veterans

San Francisco Marathon Ambassador Michael Kahn offered his own advice:

“I like to schedule around nap time if possible, but (it’s) not likely for most unless you work from home. It was much easier with just one kid. Now with a 4- and 2-year old, I often do an afternoon run with the double jogger stroller. We bring sippy cups and snack cups, plus an extra binky, ha! Usually after the snack, the lil’ one is out and the 4-year old and I play “I spy” or we sing songs. We make games out of how many people we can pass on the greenway. Anything to stay entertained. Soon I’m sure he’ll be zoned out on his iTouch.”

Natasha Hill, who ran The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon’s First Half Marathon in 2010, also recently had a baby. The Fontana, Calif., resident said pushing forward is the best way of dealing with the challenges she now faces.

“The biggest challenge for me was losing a lot of endurance and becoming a lot slower with jogging with a stroller. At the beginning when the doctor released me to jog I was so excited and I was able to go without the stroller for two miles and it felt great but the next day I had to take the stroller and my pace was so slow and I went .5 miles and had to stop and I was really discouraged.  How I overcame this was remembering what I just did with having my first child and if I can do that I can get my endurance back and my body back with pushing through it and being positive about the situation… Never give up if running is something you love! After having a child your emotions are all over the place. Remember what it was like before and how much stronger your endurance will be after pushing your baby up all those hills. I always say this to myself with everything in life, what is hard will only make me stronger.”

Tina Holt Hollands offered more advice beyond the jogging stroller:

“Be flexible with the mileage and time of day. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot run as often as you did before or you need to sleep. Life is different and take it one day and one run at a time. Start them in the stroller early to get them used to being in there.”

Luis Bueno has been a parent longer than he has been a runner, but has experience with juggling fitness demands with parenting duties. When his daughters were 2 years and 6 months old, Luis weighed 308 pounds, but despite working from home and handling a bulk of the day-to-day child-rearing duties, lost 120 pounds in 20 months and then trained for a marathon. Luis has run four marathons overall, including The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon’s 2010 event, in a time of 4:37:51.When not out on a run, Luis can be found writing about running and family at and tweeting about running and work (Luis is a freelance soccer journalist) on Twitter: @RunnerLuis. In 2012, Luis intends to cross the finish line of the San Francisco Marathon

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