Stroller Running!

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There are times when a run can drag on forever. Maybe it’s the weather, the way your legs are feeling that day, or some monotonous scenery, but time itself seems to come to a stand still with every stride. And then there are times that, for whatever reason, a run seems to fly by, as if you blink once or twice and it’s over. I was just blessed with one of those runs. It was the greatest run I’ve ever been on.

It lasted over 6 years, and covered almost 1,000 miles.

My amazing wife got me a BOB running stroller the Christmas before my first child was born. At the time, I had no idea just how much I would fall in love with using it. For the first 3+ years of my son’s life, I had the opportunity to take him along with me and give him a front row seat (literally) to my passion for running. He started rear-facing in his car seat, which was downright awesome because I could look right into his eyes the entire time, talk right to him, make silly faces to get him to smile, or simply watch him sleep. Then I blinked, a hundred or so miles had passed and he was sitting up and facing front. We couldn’t see eye to eye unless he leaned his head way back, but he was still right there with me. I’d sing him songs and tell him about everything we ran past. We’d practice counting and colors using the leaves on the trees in the fall, and sometimes he’d still fall asleep. Then I blinked again, over a hundred more miles went by and the two of us were having full conversations. We’d pass drinks and snacks back and forth while we ran. It was a great way to learn the words “please” and “thank you.” Sometimes he’d read a book he knew by heart. Other times he’d ask questions about everything we ran past and I’d be happy to answer. He planned our runs, and made requests for where to go afterward. I blinked again, another two hundred miles had gone by, and he could barely fit in the stroller anymore. He was learning to ride a bike and wanted to be more independent. Because of those manners that we practiced passing snacks in the stroller, when I’d ask him if he wanted to go for a run with me, he’d say, “no, thank you.”

But then the most beautiful thing happened. My daughter was born, and I got to do it all over again. All of it. And I can honestly say that I never took a single mile for granted.

Six and a half years after I got it, my daughter was kind enough to cram into the BOB stroller and let me take her for one last run. At one point she put her legs up on the crossbar that once held the kids’ car seat in place when they were infants. It used to be a stretch for her to get her toes that far out. Then I blinked, and that bar was just about touching the underside of her knees.

I was pretty bummed when we got to the end of the trail, knowing that the run I had with the stroller has over. As we walked back to the parking lot, however, I noticed a father and his teenage daughter both dressed to run, doing some last-second stretching. As I unbuckled my daughter from the stroller for the last time, I watched the two of them run off together, side by side. I had all the feelings. All of them.

So now I have a BOB running stroller hanging on the wall of my garage. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet. We’ll see. The other thing I have are a ton of memories and over six years of experience running with the thing, which I would like to share with as many running parents as possible. So, I put together a list of things that I learned over the years that made the experience of running with my little ones truly awesome. Please feel free to share this page with any running parents (or soon to be parents) you might know, so that they might have the same awesome experience!

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Then I blinked, and that bar was just about touching the underside of her knees.

 

Here are 14 tips for making your run with the stroller an enjoyable one for you and (more importantly) your little passenger…

1. Pack snacks and drinks. One of the best ways to keep your little passenger happy is to have a snack cup and a favorite drink. If you’re going with milk, make sure you have an insulated sippy cup. As far as the snacks are concerned, I recommend keeping them up top with you, and pass them down throughout the run. It makes for a great back and forth with your kiddo, and ensures that the snack won’t be gone in the first 3 minutes of your run.

2. Don’t forget about your own food and drink! One of the great things about running with the stroller is that you have room to carry your own fluid and stay hydrated throughout your entire run, which will leave you feeling much better during and after, especially on hot/humid days. There is a 10 mile race on the York Rail Trail (nice and flat!) at the end of August that I ran back to back years. In 2015, I ran the race pushing my daughter in the stroller and finished in under 61 minutes. The following year I ran the race solo, finishing in just under an hour. How was I able to push my girl over a ten mile course to a time only one minute slower than without her? With the stroller, I was able to carry plenty of fluid and drink throughout the entire race (a HUGE advantage in late August), as opposed to waiting 2-4 miles for water. Bring along your own squeeze bottle with water or favorite sports drink, as well as some nutrition like a gel if you’re out for a longer run. I would usually take two smaller bottles, one with water and one with a Gatorade mix.

3. Dress for the weather. Always remember that while you’re moving the whole time, your little rider isn’t. Err on the side of your kiddo being warm. When the weather cools down to awesome running temperatures and scenery (think 50-65 degrees and fall foliage!), dress your little one with layers or take a small blanket. Most strollers have a basket-like area below the seat to store clothes that might get shed if it warms up.

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4. Have a change of clothes. Any parent knows that it’s just good practice to carry some wipes, a fresh diaper, and a change of clothes anywhere you go, and that includes the running stroller. I also recommend throwing in one or two of those scented bags for pooped diapers. If your little one goes number two in the middle of a longer run, the last thing you want is running behind the smell of a stinky diaper all the way back to the car.

5. Don’t forget about your own change of clothes! I just mentioned that it’s great practice to do something fun with your kiddo post run, and having some non-sweaty clothes makes it more enjoyable for you. When your run is done, towel off, use some of those baby wipes for a quick “shower” on the go, put on a dry shirt and some sandals and you’ll feel much better until you get home to actually shower.

6. Plan your run route with another activity. I always wanted my kids to understand how grateful and appreciative I was that they were joining me on a run, so I would always reward them with another activity right after. I gave my kids the same amount of time for this activity as I did for the run, so if it was a 60 minute run, we would do something else fun afterward for an hour. There are a lot of parks that have trails to run on, so it can be as simple as letting your kid play at the park for a while when you wrap up your run. Look for other destination activities that are close to your favorite running spots. One of my kids’ favorite stops after a run on our county rail trail was a local dairy farm (Perrydell on Indian Rock Dam Road… HIGHLY recommend) where you can walk the grounds and interact with the newborn calves. They also have the BEST chocolate milk around, which makes for a great post-run beverage.

7. TALK! If you’re out for an easy run, and the effort is truly easy (which 75-80 percent of your running should be, even if you’re training to race), you should be able to hold a conversation throughout. (This will most likely mean running a slower pace than usual. More on that in tip #8.) And who better to hold an uninterrupted conversation with then your son or daughter?! You can talk about ANYTHING, and your kids will love it. (Plus, you’ll be helping with their own language development.) Some of my fondest running stroller memories are the vocal interactions I had with my kids, from singing the ABCs and learning numbers by counting the dogs we’d pass, to learning colors using the summer to fall foliage transition.

8. Slow down! Let’s get technical for a moment with the running aspect of this write up. You can do just about any type of running you would do without a stroller WITH it, as long as you adjust your pace accordingly to match the appropriate effort level. For example, your easy pace should be conversational, with a heart rate around 75 percent of max (give or take, depending on who you ask), and breathing easy enough so that you are inhaling about every four steps, and exhaling over that same duration. Let’s say that effort results in a pace around 9 minutes per mile WITHOUT the stroller. If you are going on an easy run WITH the stroller, it is important to ignore your previous pacing, instead making sure that the other indicators (breathing/heart rate) are falling within the easy range. The same could be said for doing tempo-style work. You could certainly to this with the stroller, as long as you keep your heart rate around 90 percent of max, and your breathing pattern around two steps per inhale/exhale. This might add 30 seconds to a minute per mile to your pace, but that’s OK! You’re still providing your body with the appropriate training stress. I’d recommend avoiding as many hills as possible with the stroller, because they affect your effort at a much higher rate than flat terrain. Running up a hill with the stroller will force a much higher increase in effort, while running downhill with the stroller will put much more impact stress on your legs as you try to slow it down.

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9. Take a small book or two. This is a great practice to help encourage your son or daughter to start interacting with books on his or her own. I recommend taking those favorite books that have been read a lot together, so much so that your little one has learned the words and can “read” them alone. (He or she might not actually be reading the words, but reciting them from memory, and that’s OK! It’s a natural part of reading development.) My own kids loved doing this with all of our Sandra Boynton books.

10. Carry a tire repair kit (like you would on a bike) if you are running a good distance from your home or car. As smooth and easy as running strollers roll with properly inflated tires, trying to push one with a flat tire is brutal. (While rare, flat tires on strollers can happen. Trust me!) Most tire repair kits are small enough to fit in your hand, and include adhesive tire patch, tire levers, and a hand pump or inflation device powered with a CO2 cartridge. (Here’s an example.) You can buy each part separately and build your own kit as well. If you’re not comfortable using a tire patch, make a kit that has a hand pump and a new tube. I highly recommend that you practice changing a tire at home first, so that if you get a flat while you’re out you know what you’re doing.

11. Take pictures. There was a time when I never would have advocated for this, having a “put your phone away and take in the moment” kind of attitude. However, I’ve learned (very quickly) after having kids that time flies by and memories pile up so quickly that remembering them all vividly becomes very difficult. Pictures help bridge those memory gaps. Plus, taking a quick pic takes seconds. There’s plenty of time to snap a photo AND take in the moment.

12. Plan around nap time. If you want your running partner to be awake and share the experience with you, avoid running during nap time. The stroller will put them right to sleep. If your little one is having trouble napping and you’d like to help them pass out, take him or her for a run during nap time. The stroller will put them right to sleep!

13. Let THEM pick the route! Once you’ve taken your little guy or gal on a bunch of runs at different locations, begin to plan together and let him or her decide where you’ll be running next!

14. Take it in. Enjoy every moment that you get to share your passion for running with your kid(s) while giving them a front row seat, because those moments will be gone faster than any PR you’ve every run.