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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.

Left:
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.

Right:
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."

75 responses to “What Does a Mother Runner Look Like? 14 Exhibits and Counting

  1. I love this. Unfortunately, my knees and running don’t get along. I keep trying it and thinking it will work this time and it never does 🙁 So I’m only on occasional runner. But…are you willing to take photos of what a Mother Cyclist looks like? I ride my bike every where (usually with the kids in the trailer), and I’d love to contribute a photo!

  2. This is awesome. The runners world “body” issue was hardly a glimpse at what “runners” look like. We laugh about our muffin tops and baby pooch that never seems to disappear…AND we run sub 2:00 halfs and sub 4:00 marathons….keep it up BAMRs….

  3. I just have to ask who makes the sports bra that is sort of a leopard print (pink one in first pick and aqua one further down)?

    1. Jill, I am wearing the aqua one and it’s by Sturdy Girl. Love it! (although it can be difficult to get in and out of)

    1. Also meant to say that when she is older I will show my daughter this to teach her what strong, amazing women look like and have the courage to do!

  4. I too have had body image issues and have had to overcome eating disorders and exercise anorexia. I have been a runner for 15 years, ran 11 marathons, a dozen half marathons and countless 5ks and still have difficulty embracing my body. I cried when I saw these pictures and am so inspired and truly humbled by all these women and their bravery. And thank you ladies so much for starting this assignment! I am going to try to be brave and send a pic in. Thank you again!!

  5. Thank you for this awesome post! Can’t wait to send in my photo. And thanks to the women who have already agreed to show their photos. Your bravery is an inspiration. You rock!

  6. I love that you created this post! I believe that more women should feel confident about themselves. No one looks like the glossy photos. The magazine covers don’t even look like real runners to me. Too clean to perfect. Yet that’s what both men and women feel they or the opposite sex should look like if they are runners. I’m glad to see people confident with the way they look, or at least confident enough to send a photo in. These are the photos the younger generation should be looking at as well.

    Both women and men should see what real people look like. Women need to know that it’s ok to not be like the models in the glossy, and men need to stop trying to judge women on those standards. The reverse can also be said as well.

    Happy running
    Paul

  7. This made me cry (in a good way). Even at age 40 it’s hard to shake the thing I tell my 11-y/o daughter: “Healthy is a feeling like a size.”

  8. Every time I run a race I am amazed by the range of sizes and shapes that runners come in. I love this idea and encourage those who “don’t looks like runners” to send in their pics. If you run, you are a runner. To change the idea of what runners look like, we have to show the truth to the world. I don’t “look like a runner” and probably never will. But I am one, and proud of it. I can’t wait to add my pic to the collection.

  9. This is awesome, Dimity! I can’t wait to send mine in. It’s a good way to see that we’re all normal – curves and muffintops and flat stomachs (or not) and all. 🙂

  10. Thank you for such a positive, Happy, life affirming idea. I get so down on myself bc I don’t look like a super model or Runners World cover cutie. But I have done so much with this body and this helped me appreciate my 2 kids, 3 marathons, traveling all over the world, 42 year old strong body. You all rock!

  11. Thanks, I needed that. I took about 13 years off from running when too busy with work and kids, but started running in 1974. I will be 61 next month, and I do not have the runner’s body that we see on covers of running magazines. So thank you, thank you! (Have not been able to download pics from my camera, so take my word for it!)

  12. This is a fantastic idea! I too, am way too hard on myself, thinking no one else’s stomach can look as gross as mine and other ridiculous thoughts! I will take mine soon to add. 🙂

  13. this makes me happy. For the last few years, since starting my running journey, Ive stuggled with body image- why cant I look like Runners World models? I expect to feel that twinge with Cosmo, but why don’t my hundreds of miles smooth my thighs and flatten my stomach? I know it sounds petty, but sometimes its hard to keep running thinking I cant be a “real” running cause Im not thin enough. Thanks for bringing it up!

  14. AMAZING. I have been a runner for 10 years, but never had a “runner’s body” and I’m in the slower part of the pack, so I have never actually said a flat out “Yes” when someone says, “Oh, so you’re a runner?” (In spite of the five marathons and two half marathons I have under my belt…) This post (and the website in general!) is incredibly inspiring.

  15. Ah, this makes me so happy! After all, my mother told me that I clearly didn’t put in enough effort while running because I’m not tall and skinny. Not really sure how running could have made me tall… 🙂

    (Alas, running contributed to a spinal injury, so I’m now recovering from surgery. If anything, my running effort made my situation worse, so my mom should trust that I indeed was working hard!)

  16. WOW! This is incredible and VERY inspiring. The woman that qualified for Boston at 48 touched me the most. I had a great running pal and then got pregnant with my 3rd child. We went as long as I could but at 6 months prego & 10+ min/miles it was too slow to drag her anymore… so at my encouragement, she started running with other friends and then they all went on to run away from me, quite literally, and qualified for Boston and ran in 2012. Meanwhile, my “baby” is now 1 and I have lost my running partners and struggling to find my path back. I *really* needed to read about her success at 48, not that is a goal but exciting to think I could make it one.

    THANK YOU!!!

  17. I love this so much! No matter what we look like, it doesn’t matter. That’s why I love this sport, it brings everyone together…the greatest thing is the feeling you get after the run…just the joy of it. Thank you so much for doing this! You are all beautiful!

  18. you know, I’m kind of in tears right now. I’ve been hard on myself for years, YEARS (since birth?) due to dysfunctional family carp over how my body looks/weight/all that stuff. Seeing other mother runners, proudly baring their torsos and legs and all, what I see is… myself. And I am normal and okay and strong and beautiful and badass and everything else, just like them. I am so happy that you shared this!!!! Promising that as of today, I will stop being so hard on myself and embrace all the good that is my mother runner body. Thank you!!!!

  19. This is sooooo fantastic. Thanks for acting on this idea! I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the best part is getting to see those wonderful smiles and twinkle and conviction in those eyes. I hope women will let themselves be comfortable enough to be seen, wholly, for us to admire and appreciate …

    1. And, it occurred to me that the AMR tribe might not know what a “beep beep” meant. I give a beep beep when I see or do something I really like. Beep beep, mother runners! You’re a strong bunch.

  20. thank you so much for this post. I’ve been stewing for weeks over a comment that my husband and his sister made about me, they said that they were surprised that I like to run, because, as they said, I really don’t have a runner’s body. What the @#$$# is a runner’s body?, is all I’ve been thinking since that moment.

    1. if my husband and his sister said that to me…i would kick both of them in the mouth…HARD. you need to do this ASAP. 🙂

    2. Audrey-Like you, I hear this comment all the time! I use it as inspiration to keep running, so that the next time someone says, “Really? You run?” I can happily reply, “Yup”…everyday, like a mother 😉 Keep pounding that pavement sister!

    3. Thank you NIKE! We should all look flat chested, like hangers for clothing and 16 forever. I would say don’t be offended but I would be ticked too. Sorry they were thoughtless in their ignorant comments and I wonder if there is some jealousy of your awesomeness in there. HUH? HUH? Maybe what they meant and should have said is “Why can’t I do that too? You make it look easy.”

    4. Do your husband and his sister run? Doesn’t sound like it. Otherwise they would never utter those ridiculous words. Don’t dwell on their words. Remember, you are amazing!

    5. Audrey – There is no such thing. I’m 238lbs and running my 2nd 1/2 marathon. I sometimes catch of glimpse of my non-runner body and want to scream. But instead I keep going…probably a lot farther than your critics!

  21. Very cool and inspiring. Thanks for sharing and if one of these days I get my act together I’ll submit a picture of my post-4 kids body too!
    Xo
    Mariah

  22. I absolutely love this! I am always embarrassed when I tell people I’m a runner, because I don’t look like what I think a runner should look like. I’m really working on this. I will send you my picture, too, if I can work up the courage! Thank you for making my day… this is awesome!

    1. I hear ya, Sam. I told my girlfriends about this and now they are super psyched and I want to crawl into a corner. I will also try to work up my courage….and I may have a glass of wine first. 🙂

  23. Yes, yes, yes!! Everybody is beautiful! I can’t wait to add mine to the collection. Keep it going & help everyone feel badass and beautiful!!

    Ps. I truly love you gals for doing this. There needs to be more body love in the world. <3

  24. This is fantastic!!!! Kinda like the dove real woman campaign but mother runner style!!! STRONG and BADASS in every way. Love every one of the pictures above!! Keep it coming ladies. You inspire me.

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