Follow This Mother!

Fun in the sun: Nicki running her first marathon, Myrtle Beach in 2011

Mother runners run the gamut from twenty-somethings with newborn babes to ones nearly twice that age with grown kids. Nicki Conroy falls on the latter end of the spectrum: This 50-year-old freelance writer and editor is a single mom of six kids, spanning ages 17 to 27. A resident of central New York, she’s running the Pittsburgh Marathon this Sunday—the first of two ’thons she’s doing this month.

Best recent run: I’ve always struggled with my long runs, falling apart around Mile 14 or 15 of my 20-milers. But in mid-March, I had a great 20-mile run. I was breaking in new shoes so I ran eight miles near my house, then changed into old shoes. (I also put on a dry sports bra and shirt.) I ran another out-and-back segment, stopping at home to get more hydration and changed back to the new shoes before finishing off the mileage. While I know these stops don’t happen in a race, I know better than to wear new shoes for an entire long run. The weather was perfect and everything fell into place for this particular run. I’m hoping marathon day is as good!

Marathon x 2: I am running the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Buffalo Marathon this May. Last fall I started looking or a spring marathon because I didn’t want to train through December and January like I did for my first marathon, Myrtle Beach, which is in February. I have adult children in both Buffalo and Pittsburgh so decided to do both marathons. While I am confident I can do this, the running joke (pun intended) is that I will be in a wheelchair for my youngest’s high school graduation in June. I am actually planning on running a 20K locally the weekend before graduation so I’m optimistic a wheelchair will not be needed. Training has gone great, including long runs, which are always my nemesis. I’ve even managed to sketch out a three-week plan to follow between the two marathons.

Parenting solo: I have been a single parent since 1997, when my youngest was 2.5 years old. I am sure that I could never have run like I do now, whether just for peace of mind or training for a race, when my kids were that little. I’m in awe of mothers with young children who can find time to run. I will say that most of my time is work or the kids. I literally have to have a running schedule or my runs do not get done. If something has to give in the schedule, generally it’s a run. Things are getting easier now, though. My youngest is a high school senior and has come to a race with me. He came to Myrtle Beach with me for my first marathon and did a 100K bike ride the day after my race.

Have Garmin will travel: I love to run in new places: When I travel, I run wherever I am. While visiting my mother last fall, I ran the Palm Springs Tram Challenge,a 6K with 2,000 feet of elevation. My strangest move was taking my Garmin on college visits with my youngest child so we could get a true idea of how big a campus was.

Evolution of a runner: In 2007, I started running, with no intention of ever running a race. I was trying to lose some weight and, as I say to friends, trying to outrun heredity. (Both my parents had/have health issues.) Then I became friends with a man who was a runner and a racer; in 2009 I accompanied him to a marathon as part of his support team. The camaraderie of the other spectators made me want to run a race, so I ran a 5K that December. I started doing research on training plans and realized I had enough of a base to run a March half-marathon organized by the sister of a friend, then another half the following month. I was hooked: I think the half distance will always be my favorite distance. That summer my marathon-running friend suggested I do a 26.2-mile race that fall, but I didn’t register in time and I got shut out. Instead I did Myrtle Beach in February 2011. Despite only swearing to do one marathon, I signed up to run the one I had originally spectated. From there, I knew I could do so much more—thus the two marathons this month.

Here's the group Nicki runs with once a week in the summer. "We chase the sun as it sets and then go to some establishment for legal beverages (yes, we run for beer)."

No eat meat: My 25-year-old daughter lives at home (teaching jobs are hard to find right now). She decided to give up meat for Lent and asked if I would join her to ensure she ate well. (She knows I am fanatical about fueling my body for running.) I agreed, and we both started finding recipes. We still have over 50 recipes that we haven’t tried yet. I have three “burger” recipes--two black bean-based ones and another one made with chickpeas--that we love. Since cutting meat out of my diet, I feel like I have more energy. And my race times prove it: I cut eight minutes off my 15K time in March, then took three minutes off my personal best on a tough half marathon. Needless to say, I’m still not eating meat.

Art beat: Making art is an emotional outlet. I have done everything from stamping to altering books to making cards. Recently, I have settled on photography. While I love playing with Instagram, my camera of choice is my Nikon D3000. I take photos of everything from my youngest’s drama club production of “Grease” to shadows that intrigued me during a spring run. I recently entered an Instagram contest held by one of the sponsors of the Pittsburgh Marathon, and I came in the top ten. While I didn’t win the iPod, I will have my photo on display at the expo.

Nicki and her big, happy family

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24 responses to “Follow This Mother!

  1. I loved reading about a single mom!!! I am a single mom to 4 boys (4-11 yrs old). I love to hear about other single moms running. 🙂

    1. Crystal – You keep running! Keeping yourself on an “even keel” is so important when you are parenting alone. I am amazed when I hear of women running and training with kids as young as yours! I take my hat off to you!!

  2. Hey Nicki! Look at you over here with the BAMRs. Makes total sense cause that’s what I’ve seen you as for the past few years. You are such an inspiration. More than you know!

  3. Nicki I’m a soon to be 47 year old, I just started running half marathon’s last year…I thought I’m not getting any younger, so i signed up and I’ve got that fever! I love it! i don’t know why it took me so long to sign up to race…I probably didn’t have the confidence in my younger years, i’m sure of it. I have been a runner since I was 13, but have never done anything outside of running a 5K. i will be running my first marathon in October at the Chicago Marathon!
    So glad to see other women my age running and racing.

    1. Nicki- So great to hear your story! Jenni- I am 42 and fairly new to running long distance too. And I am doing my first full marathon this year too- in Chicago!! See you there! Let’s hope for cool weather!

  4. I’m 50 too – just started running last November – after my hysterectomy. I’m still rounding the neighborhood 🙂 Thanks for the motivation!

  5. Hurray! As an “older” beginning runner (age 52) it is great to read about others in their 50s. It gives me hope!

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