A Mom’s Guide to Marathon Training

Mid-run ice cream break. Two moms, four kids, ten miles!

I have been a runner for the past 16 years. By no means am I a professional or elite runner, but I have run over a hundred races spanning in distance from one mile to 50 miles. In the past, I never really had to think about my training. I just went outside and ran. Now that I have kids, training is not that simple. There is a lot of planning and organizing that must take place before I can even lace up my running shoes. Is there someone to watch the kids? Will I be pushing them in the stroller? Is the weather appropriate to run with the kids? Do I need to pump?

We have been living in Japan almost a year now, and in an effort to force myself into exploring the country, I signed up for the Kyoto Marathon.

I thought signing up for this specific race would be a great destination marathon for a family weekend trip. As we all know though, the best laid plans of military spouses often go awry. After paying the non-refundable entry fee, I found out that my husband was going to be gone for the race weekend. So much for a fun family weekend of running, sightseeing,and free child care!

As I write this, I am a few weeks away from the race, and I have to admit that training has not been without difficulty. Taking advice from other seasoned marathon moms and my own experience so far, I have put together a guide to training with kids.

Set a goal

Marathon training plan hanging outside of bathroom to serve as daily reminder.

The first step to marathon training with kids is finding a training plan that fits your ability and schedule. There are hundreds available online. I personally like Hal Higdon’s training plans. Basically you want to be running at least three days during the week and completing a long run on the weekend.

Once you have your training schedule figured out, set a goal for your marathon. If it is your first marathon, maybe your goal is to just finish the race. This will be my fourth marathon, but my first postpartum; so my goal is to finish, and I’ll be extra happy if my finish time is around four hours.

Editor’s note: Mallory finished her marathon today! You rock Mallory!

It is a good idea to hang your training plan up somewhere you will see on a daily basis for motivation. I have mine right outside the bathroom door, and it is currently serving as a reminder of how far behind schedule and out of shape I actually am (I missed three weeks of running due to the flu and pneumonia). Slowly but surely I am getting back on track.

Getting in the Mileage

The key to successful marathon training is consistently putting in enough weekly mileage to get your body accustomed to running for long periods of time.

As a mom, especially a stay-at-home-mom, SAHM, I should have plenty of spare time to dedicate to marathon training (read the sarcasm).

If you are finding yourself crunched for time, try running while running errands. I often run to playgroup meetups, the post office, and I see other moms running to school drop-offs. Every mile counts, and running a few here and there will really add up.

A lot of the moms I talked to, myself included, also are part of Stroller Warriors, a running club for military spouses. This club has helped with my training tremendously. There is always someone willing to run with me, and we all feed off of each other’s motivation and excitement for running. 

Stroller Warriors Iwakuni at a local road race

The Long Run

I complete almost every weekday run while pushing a BOB Duallie (jogging stroller) with both of my children inside. They handle being in the stroller surprisingly well, but I also try to keep their time strapped inside to a minimum and provide lots of snacks to keep them happy.

I absolutely do not like pushing a stroller during long runs. It is difficult enough to run fifteen miles solo, much less while pushing all that weight around. This is where you really have to get creative with child care and running. Some moms are able to get up and run before the sun comes up while their husbands are home watching the kids before work. Others have regular babysitters that come over.

What do you do when your husband is never home, and you can’t really afford a sitter every weekend on your SAHM salary? As mind numbing as it is, running around a track while your kids play in the middle is one option. Another option is to trade off running/babysitting with a friend. If none of these options work for you, you may just have to grit your teeth and bear through a long run with your kids in the stroller. I highly recommend breaking up the long runs with plenty of breaks for your kids. For instance, if I am taking the kids on a ten mile run, we stop halfway for ice cream or to play at the park for a few minutes before returning home.

Long runs with the stroller will build character for both you and your kids, plus it is a good bonding experience … or at least that is what I keep telling myself.

Mid-run ice cream break. Two moms, four kids, ten miles!

Sleep and Nutrition

I am sure every mom reading this is getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, so I don’t have to remind you to get lots of rest if you are marathon training (again, read sarcasm). 

Sleep is my biggest struggle; I am lucky if I get more than eight hours of sleep a week sometimes. Between frequently nursing my baby and my toddler’s night terrors, the nights get shorter and shorter for me. Because of this, I make every effort to nap and rest when I can. If the babies are sleeping, you can guarantee I will be sleeping, too.

When it comes to the kids’ sleep, I never wake them to go on early-morning runs. Their sleep is more important. I also have to be very careful when taking them on late-morning runs in the stroller. If it is too early for naptime, they will inevitably fall asleep in the stroller and not nap at their normal time. On the other hand, if I try to run exactly at naptime they will not sleep at all, and the rest of the day will be a real bear. It is very tricky business and takes a lot of trial and error to figure out.

Both kids fell asleep during this run … naptime was ruined!

Just as important as sleep, is fuel, not only for you, but also for your tiny running companions. Load the stroller down with more than enough snacks to get through your training run. Be sure to pack extra because they will inevitably throw half of them overboard mid run. There is nothing worse than having to cut your training run short because someone is having a meltdown. Recommended stroller snacks from running moms: suckers, fruit snacks, goldfish, popcorn, gummies, popsicles.

Other Tips

  • Set yourself up for success! Lay out your clothes and fuel the night before any early-morning run. If you forget, it is no big deal because 98 percent of the time, your early-morning run will be canceled because one or both of your seemingly healthy kids will come down with the plague overnight.
  • Add in some speed work. Can’t make it to the track? No problem. My kids like to surprise me with speed work by chucking their shoes or something else important out of the stroller while we are running across the street. I then have to sprint back into traffic to retrieve said items.
  • Electronics are your friends. They keep your kids happy and content in a stroller for at least an hour, a good running watch will keep you on track, and music can really make any run better.
This is Mallory finishing her marathon!

What are some of your tips for running with kids? Have any of you run a full marathon while pushing a stroller?