Running with a jogging stroller has its challenges. You aren’t able to use both arms. Going uphill or into the wind can sometimes feel like you are running through wet cement. Going downhill causes you to constantly check to ensure you are in control. The curbs and cracks on sidewalks and roads that everyday runners hardly notice, stroller runners dread. Sharing the road with large vehicles can be dangerous enough on your own, but with precious cargo, the runner must develop hyper senses of their surroundings. With double precious cargo I can sense every moving object within a half mile.
All these challenges can be managed, and the runner can adapt. It beats not running at all. The kids love it as long as you are moving. It is a suitable compromise when the whole family can go out for a run. We have a place to put water and a phone and we’ll stop by a playground (we know dozens on all our routes). We’ll stroll by the grocery for some essential items or maybe even get some takeout since there’s plenty of room. Our Bob Ironman Duallie has been a life saver, and after putting several thousand miles on it in the last 2 years between me and Allison, I have developed some tips for running with a stroller.
Start slow, just like a dump truck takes a while to get up to speed on the highway. Pushing our current load of 88 pounds (34 pounds of stroller and 54 pounds of babies) from a stand still takes time to build momentum, and sometimes that means a mile or two warm up.
Keep straight. Resist the urge to lean on the handlebars for support, this creates bad running mechanics and causes the back to do more work than it should. You want your force on the stroller to be going forward not into the ground.
Keep straight part 2. Learn about your equipment and maintain it by adjusting the alignment, checking the pressure in the tires, tightening the brake, adjusting the seat belts, and lubricating if necessary.
If your stroller is equipped with a hand brake, for goodness sake, use it to stop. You are doing enough work without dragging yourself at every intersection.
Seek out stroller friendly terrain. The Legacy Trail is the best place in Lexington to push a stroller. It would be better if it were flat, but having a wide trail and no traffic or stops makes for awesome strolling.
Wave to other strollers. It’s common courtesy; they’re part of the club.
No shame in walking up that gigantic hill. You are bad ass enough pushing it on the flat.
Every August for the past three years, our family has participated in A Midsummer Night’s 5K in downtown Lexington. One of the biggest races in the area with 4,000 finishers, the race celebrated its 30th year in 2014. I push the stroller with our twin boys and Allison races us. It started as a fun challenge, but as she is a national caliber elite runner and I, a former elite runner, it quickly became competitive. The first year when they were just 5 months old, (shhhh, I think the stroller companies recommend waiting until they 7 months old) I passed Allison in the last mile to run 16:56. She ran 17:12, not a great day for her but she won the overall women’s division and had several other good races that summer including a 16:45 for 5000 meters on the track….wait for it…..12 weeks after giving birth to twins.
Year two of the showdown was 2013, and it was an exciting one. We both brought our A games. After a slow start, (see the first tip for stroller running) I came on strong at the end and caught my wavering wife in the last 100 meters. She heard a baby chirp behind her with 400 to go but knew it was too late. I had momentum. I finished 8th overall in 16:29 and Allison won the women’s division again in 16:32. I also won the newly created stroller division. A lot of people were highly impressed by this feat but I must remind you that I was once an internationally competitive 5K runner. Running over 3 min or 20% slower than my PR with or without a stroller puts things in perspective.
This year, as the anticipation built, we learned there would be a new course with fewer turns but more hills. Turns are tough for strollers, but hills are tougher, especially when your cargo packed on a few pounds each from the previous year. The previous course was fast, but the new course presented a different challenge, and my splits tell the story, as does the camera strapped to the stroller. Check out the video below. The 2014 edition of “Mama vs The Boys” was to be one for the books.
Last year I started on the front line and got a myriad of looks and questions from officials and racers. The front is reserved for the elite runners and small children wishing to get trampled while their mom takes a picture of it. Strollers belong in the back. Many people believe that strollers don’t belong in any race because they are an obstruction to other runners. I would agree unless you start where you belong which may be hard for many people to figure out. I figured the front line for us would be safest spot for everyone but others disagreed. So this year I decided instead to enlist a few body guards around me close to the front a few rows back to act as a buffer between the stroller and the mob.
I didn’t get a great start. Starting in 50th place means I had to get by a lot of people eventually. But I also didn’t want to go out too hard, knowing the hill was still ahead. As I stayed out of traffic for the first few minutes, I was able to find my grove and have plenty of room as it thinned out but there were always people around us. The MSNR has perhaps the best depth for competitive runners in the area. 118 runners under 20 minutes for 5K is quite competitive. Catching a lot of them helped me stay focused, but there was really only one I was interested in. I saw Allison at the turn around, but she didn’t see me. I was gaining on her. As we headed back for home I took full advantage of the downhill that I had just exhausted myself running up. I found a last gear when I saw her pink jersey all alone with the finish line in sight. I quickened the pace to something shy of a sprint (remember, I am a responsible father; I couldn’t dive across the line). Another 10 meters and she could have been mine. I finished less than a second behind her in 16:30. She had no idea I was there. There was a little confusion when the results showed me ahead of her but those were Chip time results and Gun time is what matters in a race.
My Splits: 5:25, 5:27, 5:00
My hat’s off to her. She ran as well as she has run all year and after beating her the last two years, she deserved to hold us off this time. But next year we will be out for payback. The boys will be able to talk smack by then. I will train a little harder, maybe put them on a stricter diet or at least get them a speed suit, perhaps make some more tweaks to the stroller and the Morgan boys will reclaim their title.