Marathon Mom: How Can I Squeeze in Long Runs when I Have Kids?

Dear Marathon Mom,
I’m a mom of two (twins, age 18 months) and I just signed up for my first marathon since entering motherhood. Now reality is setting in, and I’m wondering how the heck I’m going to squeeze in training – especially long runs! Any ideas or suggests are welcome!

Overly Ambitious

Dear Overly Ambitious,
Based on your statement that you’ve signed up for your first marathon ‘since entering motherhood,’ I’ll assume you’ve run at least one marathon prior to motherhood. That means I don’t need to spend a great deal of time describing how to train for a marathon – you already know. The basics of training are still the same after kids; you still need a good mix of short, middle distance, and recovery days throughout the week with a long run to cap it off.

There are many ways to fit in the shorter runs during the week, whether you take your children with you in a jogging stroller (at 18 months, it’s likely they will still enjoy the ride and be entertained for the half hour or so), hire a babysitter while you work out, utilize a gym day care, or workout when your significant other or a family member is not working and can watch the twins. For more detailed or creative ideas on how to squeeze in the shorter weekday workouts, see my response to a similar situation here.

The long run is certainly more of a challenge, however. It’s hard to find 2-4 hours to set aside when you’re a young, single runner. Throw a family into the mix, and it can seem downright impossible to get away for that amount of time. However, a simple adjustment of attitude mixed with some creativity can open up some doors.

Rather than trying to come up with a way to run alone for several hours each week, why not take the twins along for part of the run? You could run the first 6-8 miles with them in the jogging stroller, and then either drop them back off at home with your partner or a babysitter, and finish your run solo. Or, you could have someone meet you at a pre-determined destination along your route to pick them up after a few miles. Another fun idea is to run a point-to-point route, ending it at a park or a friend’s house, where your twins can be waiting for you. This would also provide excellent motivation to keep going when you hit the wall on your long run.

If you don’t have a jogging stroller or just plain don’t want to share part of your run with the kiddos there are still other options. The point of a long run is to mimic the challenge of physical exhaustion you will feel at some point (if not many points) in the marathon, but a single long run each week isn’t the only way to achieve this. Another option is doing two back-to-back challenging middle-long distance runs. For example, if you wanted to accomplish a 14-miler this weekend but can’t find a block of time large enough to complete this, try running 5 miles in the morning and 7 miles that same evening. Or, you could run 7 miles in the evening and 7 miles first thing the next morning. If anything, this will be harder physically and mentally than doing all14 miles at once, since you tease your body with a too-short break and then challenge it again before it’s properly (or even partially) recovered.

While the idea of training for a marathon while balancing a family with young children may sound like a joke to some, for others of us it’s just a reality that we find a way to make it work because it’s important to us. The training will be challenging, wonderful, and trying, my friend, but isn’t that what the spirit of a marathon is all about?

Best of luck!
Audra Rundle, Marathon Mom