Earlier this year, soon after starting this blog, I started training for my second marathon. I knew my marathon training was going to take me up to a 20 mile run. I had a goal in mind that I had really hoped to accomplish. My goal was to run 20 miles pushing Zain in the jogging stroller. For me, it felt like this goal was even bigger than running the marathon because I knew how hard it would be. On Saturday, I accomplished my goal.
I had kept this goal mostly to myself. I didn’t really want to mention it here because I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to do it. During my 20 mile run last weekend, I repeatedly told myself there was no way I was going to attempt this with Zain in the stroller. As the week went on, the pain of those 20 miles faded and apparently, so did my memory of how hard it was.
My husband is also training for the Baltimore Marathon (his first and most likely last marathon so he says!) and I knew I wanted to be with him for his 20 mile run. I came very close to calling in the grandparents to watch Zain for this run and I almost had no choice as there was a chance of rain. I obsessively checked the hourly forecast on Friday night and was relieved on Saturday morning when there was only a 10% chance of rain. However, 94% humidity didn’t exactly make for pleasant running conditions; at least it was only about 67 degrees when we started.
I had to wake up Mr. Sleepyhead and give him breakfast, then we were off for our longest family run ever.
We needed a whole lot of stuff for 2 runners and 1 toddler.
We brought – one bottle of ice water, one bottle of Lemon-Lime Nuun, one extra bottle of water, 8 Gus, 2 packs of Clif Shot Bloks, Nathan hydration belt (I made hubby wear it so he didn’t weigh down my stroller anymore than it already was!), iPhone, iPod Shuffle, headphones for iPhone, water and snacks for Zain, my visor in case the sun decided to come out (which it did not; thank goodness for a cloudy morning), my ID, a small towel (came in handy to wipe my sweaty face), and the Fisher-Price Apptivity case (more about that later). Not pictured, but managed to make their way into the stroller: my wallet, a Honey Stinger waffle, a blanket for Zain, tissues, diaper and wipes, and some small toys.
Previously, the farthest I’ve run with Zain was 13.1 miles. Before that, I had run 10 miles and 12 miles with him – and it was always just me and him. During my 12 and 13.1 mile runs with him, he actually fell asleep while we were running. I had hoped the same thing would happen Saturday, but he was too interested in the sights to sleep.
I broke one of my stroller running rules. I NEVER run on the road while pushing Zain in the stroller. I don’t feel like it’s safe so I always stick to sidewalks. Saturday, I had a lot more miles to cover than I usually do so instead of driving myself crazy running back and forth on the same streets with sidewalks, we headed to a quiet road with very few cars, a good size shoulder and lots of nice neighborhood streets that branch off of it. I would not have done that had I been alone with Zain, but we had hubby there. I instructed hubby to run in front of us while on the road so that he could be our human shield :). He wore a gray top and black shorts so he blended in nicely with the road. I told him he just needed a white stripe down his shirt and he’d be set (there needs to be a sarcasm font). Note to road runners: always wear bright colors so cars can see you! One of my tweeps just did a fantastic post about running safety, be sure it check it out!
When we first got to this road, we noticed another family come out of a neighborhood for a run! A running mom, a running dad and 2 kiddos in a jogging stroller. I was so excited I tried to snap a picture of them.
The first 10 miles of our run went off without a hitch. Zain was in such a happy mood and kept babbling to me. We paused a few times so I could give him some snacks and his sippy cup. I took a little break around mile 8 to have a Honey Stinger waffle because I made the mistake of not eating anything before we left; you’d think I’d know better by now! I ended up giving most of it to Zain because he loved it (and I love that it’s organic and healthy for him to eat too). Zain was still quite content at this point, but hubby asked me what I was going to do if Zain wasn’t happy anymore. I told him that if that happened, I’d cut the run short and just do my 20 mile run solo next weekend.
Hubby was also growing concerned that pushing the stroller for 20 miles was going to be too much for me. He asked me repeatedly if he could push for a little while. I wouldn’t let him. I needed to do this on my own. Plus, he never runs with the stroller so a 20 mile run was not the place to start. He asked if maybe I should call my parents for back-up just in case. I told him “come hell or high water, I am finishing this run!” I think he got the point then.
The rest of our run was on sidewalks which was for the best since the roads were starting to get busier. I got super excited when my watch hit 13.11 miles as that meant I had run the farthest ever with Zain. Hubby informed me at mile 14 that he was “fading.” Instead of saying, “excuse me, are you pushing a toddler in a jogging stroller?” I did my best to encourage him and remind him that he was doing great. We only had 6 miles left. He could run 6 miles in his sleep. In fact, he practically does when he wakes up while it’s still dark outside, rolls out of bed, throws on his running clothes, and hits the pavement. Up until this point, neither of us listened to music which we are accustomed to doing on our long runs. I passed him his iPod Shuffle with the hope that some tunes would help keep him going.
This is when I broke my second rule of running with Zain. I never listen to music when I run with him because I don’t feel that it’s safe and I obviously need to be able to hear him if he needs me. I decided to plug in my headphones and keep my volume super low. Luckily, we were only on sidewalks at that point so I felt a bit safer doing so.
At mile 17, we headed to a road with a monster hill. Hubby did not want to run it, but I did solely for the fact that where it took us would help us add our final miles to the run. I told hubby to turn back and Zain and I would go up the hill. I ran as much of it as I could and walked the rest (always pausing my watch for walk breaks). After hubby went the other way, Zain started to get fussy. I think it was because hubby wasn’t in front of us anymore for him to keep an eye on.
That’s when I had to pull out my back up entertainment plan. I bought the Fisher-Price Apptivity Case pretty much solely with this run in mind. Honestly, I was surprised I didn’t need to bring it out until that far into the run. This case makes your iPhone totally baby-proof. Feel free to judge me for giving my toddler an iPhone to play with, but desperate times call for desperate measures, my friends! I put on a Fisher-Price app (that was free!), locked my phone into the case and gave it to a delighted Zain. I would have taken a picture of this excitement, but he had my phone :). That also meant I lost my music. It was okay though because the Fisher-Price toy played some wonderful repetitive music (another place I could use a sarcasm font).
Just before I hit the 19 mile mark, I started to feel like I really wasn’t sure if I could finish my run. I was hurting. I knew I would be so mad at myself later if I didn’t push myself for one more mile so I kept trudging along. That’s when we ran into hubby again. I was so happy to see him. He was a little closer to being finished than me since I lost some time while setting up Zain’s little entertainment center. Hubby was struggling and I had to pass along some more encouraging words. Aren’t I such a good wife? I was so proud of him when he finished though. I know he’s not a fan of distance running, but he’s accomplished so much.
When I finally reached 20 miles – after I was done cursing myself for finishing it on an uphill stretch – I nearly cried. Of course, I wanted to cry because my body hurt so badly, but also because I was in disbelief that I just ran TWENTY miles pushing Zain in the stroller. I’m very proud of myself for that accomplishment. I’m also here to tell you that I never want to do that again!
I have to say it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I think that’s because I took it much slower than my usual long run pace and slower than my usual stroller running pace – actual running time was 3:40 with an average pace of 11:02. My watch says 3:44 because I forgot to pause it a few times while waiting to cross the street. Actual time that elapsed for this whole run – 4:23. That includes all walking breaks and stops to tend to Zain. However, 3:40 was the total time in which I ran the 20 miles (thank you, Garmin for breaking down all the details for me!).
Running 20 miles pushing Zain in the jogging stroller was without a doubt the hardest run I’ve ever done. It wasn’t just difficult physically, it was also hard mentally. I constantly questioned whether I’d be able to make it to my goal. I’m so glad that I did. I’m incredibly thankful to have such an amazing little boy who sat through a 20 mile run. I’m also incredibly thankful to have a super supportive husband who helped me through this tough run and even made me laugh as he tried to assist me by nudging me up some of the hills. I’m so happy that I was able to share this amazing run with my sweet boy and my wonderful husband. I’ll never forget this experience.
Many other running moms have asked me how I kept Zain entertained in the stroller for so long. While he can be a crazy toddler like any other 20 month old, he’s usually a very easy going kid; the fact that he was willing to sit still for so long does have a lot with his personality. I also have to say that a huge part of it is that he is pretty much only in the stroller when we go running. Every since he was tiny, I have worn him when we go places instead of putting him in the stroller. You can see my posts on our strollerless trip to Europe for a little more about that. I think a big part of why he’s so content is that he’s not used to being in the stroller frequently so he doesn’t mind it one bit when he is in it.
Our other tricks to keep him happy were snacks and a sippy cup. Freeze-dried fruit makes a great, healthy and easy stroller snack. Also, all natural fruit snacks by Mott’s and some of mommy’s Honey Stinger waffle were a hit. Last, but not least, the Fisher-Price Apptivity Case was a lifesaver to get us through those last few miles. I was prepared for the possibility that we would have to stop for him to run around. I knew where a playground was that we could incorporate into our route and I kept my eye out for other open areas that would be safe for him to stretch his legs. We didn’t end up needing those options because he was content, but it was good to know he could take a break if needed.
Not only is Zain an all-star for sitting through our long run, but you are one too for reading this 20 mile long post! Believe it or not, I actually left out quite a few details, like how hubby was nearly attacked by 2 different dogs in the same neighborhood in a span of about 45 seconds. Our 20 mile run was certainly an adventure we’ll always remember!