What Does a Mother Runner Look Like? 14 Exhibits and Counting

My very amenable, very brave running buddies, who stripped for me last Thursday morning, to begin a photo series. I asked the dogs to take off their collars, but they protested: they're boy runners. Running with us is emasculating enough.

So I've had this idea fermenting in my head for six months now: a photo essay titled What Does a Mother Runner Look Like? A collection of pictures that celebrates the bodies that have carried us through all kinds of miles. I want to show that kickass strong and stretch marks go together--and that, despite what the cover of Runner's World may broadcast, all sizes and shapes of bodies can be and are runners.

I waffled for a long time, though, because I know how easily we women can fall into the how-great-is-her-body and how-much-does-mine-suck game? And I am not willing to promote those kind of sports. (Running? Yes. Jealousy? No.) So here's my caveat: if you're going to go into this post with a coveting attitude, covet just one thing: the fact that these women are so proud of their awesome, capable bodies, they're willing to put them on display.

I recruited a couple of pals to kickstart the project, because nobody likes to be first to the party. Initially, I had a very rigid idea of what I thought would work (individuals only, sports bras, short or skirt, in front of plain backdrop, whole body, head cropped off) and then I realized being rigid doesn't make anybody's life--and especially mine--easy.

What follows is the beginnings of the album: some are group shots, some are alone, some mostly show bellies, others show full bodies, some are headless mother runners and others aren't. As I work on being flexible, we want you--all of you, no matter how fit you feel, no matter how many little stretchy rivulets run along your abs, no matter if you're currently channeling badass or not--to join in.

Please send us a picture of yourself as a mother runner. You can be with a pal (the two- or four-legged kind); you can crop off your head or not (or ask me to do it); you can be as revealing as you want. (We'd prefer to see you in a sports bra, please, to keep some consistency with the pics.) Might be good to take the pic before a run so we don't get you in all your sweaty glory, but we'll take that too.

Info to include:
Age; number of kids (fine if you don't have any); number of years you've been a runner; proudest running moment; favorite body part (no wiggling out of this one).

Pull it together and send it to: runmother at gmail dot com.

I will then pull it together in some cool photo album app thing and so the world will know what a mother runner looks like: proud, human, strong, badass.

43 years old, 2 kids, running for 2 years.

Proudest running moment: Just a month ago when I got to run Hood to Coast, I was very overwhelmed after finishing my last leg.

Favorite body part: My brain because it is one part that keeps getting better with age well for me anyway; knowledge and wisdom increase with the years. If it has to be a visible part, it's my legs. I truly believe that running saved my life and got me out of postpartum depression for good.

2 kids; runner for 18 years.

Proudest running moment: finishing my first marathon in 1999. I felt like I could have kept running even after 26.2 miles!

Favorite body part: My arms! Always the easiest part to show how hard you have been working out!

46 years old, 3 kids, running for 25 years.

Proudest running moment: clocking 4:01 at the Big Sur Marathon.

Favorite body part: my calves.

40-something; 2 kids; runner for 6 years.

Proudest running moment: standing at the starting line of my first marathon.

Favorite body part: my legs. They have carried me countless miles and they're stronger than I give them credit for. They respond to strength training and hill running by getting stronger. If I would just listen to my legs instead of my head, I would run faster and farther....

48; 2 kids; runner for 4 years.

Proudest running moment: running my first marathon in 2010 while my daughter was going through chemotherapy for her kidney disease was a huge physical and mental achievement for me.

Favorite body part: my thighs. I used to hate them: all fat, huge, giggly, with cellulite. Now they are toned, strong, and can carry me anywhere and as far as I want them to go. They still have some cellulite, but that's ok.

2 kids; runner for 2 years.

Proudest running moment: finishing a half-marathon at the end of a 70.3 triathlon.

Favorite body part: my eyes, because they never change.

45 years old; 3 kids; runner for almost 4 years.

Proudest running moment: going sub two-hours in half-marathon in April 2011.

Favorite body part: my legs for sure. They're strong and lean.

Left: 39;  2 kids; runner for 2 years. Right: 39; 2 kids; runner for 1.5 years.

Proudest running moment: crossing the finish line at first mud run with 18-year-old son. Completely unassisted; no one had to carry me, as in an EMT. (Ha!)

Favorite part of body: my kids. They always make me smile, and they are a part of me.

Proudest running moment: finishing a hateful 11 mile training run in preparation for my first half-marathon.

Favorite body part: my butt. When I lost weight after pregnancy and while nursing, my behind was pancake flat. Running has made me curvy and strong again.

40-something; 4 kids; runner for 25 years.

Proudest running moment: finishing my first 100-mile race with my family and my BRFs by my side.

[Editor's note: forgot to ask her what her favorite body part is. Dang it.]

55 years old; 1 kid; runner for 35 years.

Proudest running moment: when I qualified for Boston at my very first marathon at age 48.

Favorite body part: Love my legs because they continue to carry me through long runs and over hill and dale.

2 kids; runner for 2 years.

Proudest running moment: finishing the Twin Cities Marathon with friends.

Favorite body part: TBA.

1 kid; runner for 12 years.

Proudest running moment: with so many distractions and commitments, every single time I make it out the door for a run.

Favorite body part: My waist. I'm psyched I have one.

We'll end with this beauty of a shot, taken by a professional photographer. The mother runner on the left writes, "Can you disclose this picture was from Laura Mahony, a professional photographer, who knows her lighting? It's way more flattering than I would have gotten with a cell phone."

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