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AMR Aid Station: How do I know if I’m ready to run a marathon?

Welcome to the AMR Aid Station, a new feature on the Another Mother Runner. At the AMR Aid Station, we will answer and explain your burning + interesting #motherrunner questions, so if you have any, feel free to tweet us @themotherrunner with your question and use #AMRAidstation; you can also comment in below or email us.

“How do I know when/if I'm ready to run a marathon?”

 

For mothers, this is a particularly loaded question.

You’ve got a lot going on already. Are you sure you want to spend precious time training when you are not attending to your demanding responsibilities as mother, spouse, worker bee, desk jockey, chauffeur, short-order cook, dog-walker, grocery-shopper, laundry chieftain, vacuum-wielder, toilet-snaker, book-reader, and all the other things you may (or may not!) do?

Okay, yes, me too. Let’s get out of the house NOW!

Mom? Do you want to play Princess with me? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? (My child in 2008.)

Truth is, there is no one-size-fits-most answer. So many factors go into marathon-training calculus. Marathons are hard. You don’t want the experience to suck.

Be honest with yourself when you answer these questions. If you’re not ready to tackle 26.2 right now, no biggie. Marathons will always be there for you.

If you ARE ready, go you! And of course you’ll check out Train Like a Mother programs, cause they got your back.

1. How old is your youngest child?

Less than a year?

Sure, some women bounce back post-partum to the best shape of their lives. (Really? Is that actually true?)

Paula Radcliffe won the 2007 New York City Marathon 10 months after giving birth to her daughter, Isla. But she also held the marathon world record of 2:15:25, a time that stands today. AND she suffered a sacral stress fracture.

You are not Paula Radcliffe.

Even if you’re an adoptive mom like me (and my daughter was nearly 1 when I got her), your mind and body are going through the shock of living on someone else’s sleep, eat, pee/poop schedule. Wahhhh! Adding stress to a stressful situation is not a recipe for success. Pass.

I wore my finest Rock & Roll Arizona Marathon T-shirt to meet baby Ya Ping in Chang-sha, China, in 2005. She wasn't impressed. 🙂

 

If your youngest child is in the 2-7-year-old range, everyone here totally understands the urgency of getting out of the chaotic house to do something far away from all the screaming demands. For long periods of time.

In fact, Dimity’s and Sarah’s kids were in the 2-7-year-old range they started on this whole AMR party in the first place.

And if your youngest is over the age of say 10 or so, heck yeah, go for it! (Unless you just want to take a two-year nap, which we also totally understand.)

Consider this: 52% of runners live in a household with NO CHILDREN under the age of 19, according to Running USA’s 2017 National Runner Study. And another 16% had just one child under the age of 19. And 68% of runners are married. So that means…

In a majority of running households, the grownups outnumber the children.

 

2. How many days a week do you run and/or work out?

“Four or more” is the answer I’m looking for, though some coaches have different opinions. Your muscles, tendons, and joints need to be accustomed to the rigors of running before you start ramping up the distance (and the rigor). Speaking of….

 

Look how happy I was in my first marathon! Well, I was 27, and this was FIFTEEN YEARS before my daughter came to me. (New York City, 1989.)

3. How long have you been running—consistently?

This is the correct answer, according to coach Budd Coates of Runner’s World: 3-5 days of running 3-5 miles at a time, with a weekly long run of 8 miles, consistently for a year.

 

4. Have you run a 5K or a half-marathon since the arrival of your youngest?

Yes: Yay! Proceed to the route.

No: Hmmm. Why not? Did you just have a baby?? Why are you reading this?

Yes, there are people who do a marathon as their first post-partum race. And some go on to complete many marathons. But it seems really risky to me. Why would you do that to yourself?

PS Even if you ran marathons pre-kids, you still want to ease back into training.

5. Have you been pain-free for the past six months?

Yes: Whew. Pat yourself on the back. Proceed to the route.

NO: Oh, dear, I am sorry. What hurts? Your shins? Your butt? You do know that throwing mileage on an injury isn’t going to make the pain go away, right? You are not Paula Radcliffe.

Nashville Marathon, 2005, four months before we flew to China to meet our baby! My first sub-4 marathon in many (IVF) years.

6. How much “free” time do you have?

Hahahahahaha.

As a mother runner, you don’t find “free” time, you make it. And I don’t have to tell you it isn’t “free”—it comes with a cost.

Be real when you consider this: A marathon training plan will require at least one 20-mile run. How long will that take you, at your slowest, most conservative pace? For me, it’s around 4 hours. Plus time to eat, drink, and prepare before hand. And after your long run, you might even want to shower, eat, foam-roll, and nap—if you are so blessed—without a small child following you into the shower to ask what's for lunch? And do you want to play Mafia Princess in a Tent? (What happens when you raise a daughter in New Jersey.)

Add onto that at least three other one-ish-hour weekly runs and soon we’re talking 7-10 hours. Yikes!

Plus, you will be tired. So tired.

You can see how incredibly delighted my daughter, then 2, was to cheer me on in the 2006 Durango, Colorado, marathon.

7. Is your family on board? No, really.

“When a mom trains, the whole family trains.”

Sit everyone down—kids, spouse or partner (if you have one), other caretakers (if you have those)—and explain what you are all getting into. The training, the commitment, the victory of reaching a goal—together, right? Yay! Cupcakes help.

The short answer: You are ready for a marathon when your body, mind, and family are all in sync.

This is making me feel all fired up to train for a fall marathon!

What about you? Are you ready for a marathon? If you've run one already, do you have other questions that should be addressed?

4 responses to “AMR Aid Station: How do I know if I’m ready to run a marathon?

  1. really great advice here! i see so many people jump into marathon training without the year + of REGULAR training! running a half marathon, then taking 4 months off because of winter, and then jumping into marathon training is a recipe for injury!

    (also, LOL at mafia princess!)

  2. I think it is also important to think about your financial situation. Race fees for marathons are usually pretty steep and when you add in travel costs, extra running shoes and everything else, it really adds up! Plus you may need to pay babysitters, house sitters, pet sitters, the list goes on. Does not even consider the potential chiropractor or PT appointments that may be needed as mileage increases. I am certainly not trying to talk anyone out of going for it if they want to but I think taking stock of the financial investment is a critical component.

  3. I ran my first marathon days before my younger son turned 3. Because it required training during the summer, I traded childcare during the week with my mommy tribe to find time to run. My husband took 3 Fridays off so that I could run my really long runs – 19, 20, and 20. It definitely took a village to get me to that start line.

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