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Photo credit: Rachel Gorajala

How to combine running and motherhood

18-Jul-16

Last updated: 08-Sep-16

By Rachel Gorajala

Like many other runners, running gives me ‘time out’ in my day. An opportunity to take stock and breathe. Keeping that space became an essential part of my day when I became a mum.

Running took on a new significance when the kids arrived. When the children were smaller, an evening run became the point of my day where I handed over the responsibility of looking after the kids to someone else for a while. I would take off for half an hour or so, and completely forget about the tribulations that day had offered. It became a luxury, being able to step back and do something that was just about me. Then I would feel ready to face any new traumas when I came back to the house.

Luckily, my children grew to accept me leaving them for short periods to run. When reassured I would always return, they accepted detachment. Some days I would force myself to run despite feeling shattered from sleepless nights or early mornings- these were less runs, more like trudging around the local streets. I was amazed how much better I felt for being in the fresh air and having a break from the kids. It became my individual activity, recognised as my ‘thing’ that is separate from childcare. And I felt it improved my childcare: I felt energised to look after the children, knowing I would have a slot for myself for later in the day.

My children are older now. They are in school, sleeping through the nights, and easy and pleasurable to look after. Now, running is about new goals, meeting new people, hopefully seeing new places. My children, thankfully, do not think it is slightly out of the ordinary to see their mum constantly wearing pieces of running kit throughout the day. Training fits in well with the school routine. I drop the kids wearing running kit, with jeans over the top, then perform a humorous strip at the school gates beside the lollipop man. I have been advised that people would pay good money for this under other circumstances – somehow I’m yet to see this. For the Marathon des Sables I would carry my weighted MDS backpack on the school run- much to the interest and bemusement of other parents. After training, time to catch up with housework, lunch, then back for school pick ups. This routine disintegrates around the school holidays or nightmare work shifts and I try my best to re-establish training time more appropriately during these periods.

Rachel at the Everest Trail Race. Photo credit: Rachel Gorajala.

If I wish to participate in a multi-day event, one of the hardest issues- aside from practical issues of saving / arranging childcare- is leaving the children for the length of time involved. Whatever your feelings regarding my responsibilities as a parent, I still believe that my ultra running days will be numbered. I am already 42, and do not think I will be physically capable of participating in multi day events forever. I am truly ecstatic when I am preparing for a big event, even if it is months or even years away. So, I believe it is acceptable to leave my children (in extremely good hands, may I add), every once in a while, finances and logistics permitting. For my sanity, and probably theirs too.

Racing has no significance to children as distances are irrelevant at that age, so trying to explain that I am hoping to run a marathon or further is fruitless. They were impressed when they found out I was running up some big mountains in Nepal- this captured their imaginations. I hope living with a runner will influence them towards sport at some stage but only if they are interested themselves. I also hope that one day they will be proud of me and the events I have completed. Motherhood also fits in well physically with training. No late nights, eating regularly, no wine in the evenings (I’m a big fan of weak lager to relax with – no hangover, but still an indication that the day is over and it’s relax time).

Routine, routine, routine- what childcare is about- slots in nicely with training for new events. It works, honestly.

For more on Rachel, follow her blog.

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