The Confessions of a Mother Who Loves Ultra-Running

Some might feel that being an ultrarunner and a mother of two children is an exclusive undertaking. However, speaking from my own experience, I can tell you that this is certainly not the case, but it is a huge balancing act. Ironically, I feel that my children were the two things motivated me to get into ultra-running. For those unfamiliar with the term, ultrarunning refers to running a distance that is longer than a marathon.

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Why Ultra-Running?

Me and my husband, Tom, had been avid runners for years, and a few years ago he started to speak to me about taking place in an ultra-distance race. My response at the time was to tell him that he can do it if he likes, but that the only thing I will be doing is cheering him on from the sidelines.

However, after having my second child in the space of two years, one of the very first things that I did after Charlotte’s arrival was to sign myself up for a 50-mile race. To this very day, I am not entirely sure why I did this. Maybe it was the sleepless nights or maybe my post-pregnancy hormones clouded my good judgement. Whatever it was, when a good friend of mine registered for a 50-mile race in the summer, I was not that far behind her.

Completing My First Ultra Race

I finished my very first ultra-race when our first child was around nine months old - I had planned to have him fully weaned by then, but that plan did not come to pass. He is now two, and I chuckle to myself when I realize that I thought that he would conform to the plans that I had set out. He is probably one of the most stubborn toddlers that you will come across. Therefore, I had to pack my breast pumps in my running bag just in case I became too top heavy in the middle of the race.

In other words, being a mother and an ultra-runner is something that can be very challenging - it is never easy to balance your child’s needs with your own. Thankfully, my parents live in the same town, so they help me out with some babysitting. Without them, I think it is safe to say that I would not be an ultra-runner.

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The Advantages of Running

Running is an activity that has plenty of benefits. Apart from the obvious benefits to your health, running is something that is great for mental health as well. If I run regularly, I am a much nicer and patient mother, so I never feel guilty about ensuring that I go on a daily run each day. However, I do sometimes feel a bit guilty about my ultra-running hobby (addiction?). I mean, it does make me a more pleasant person, but I am the only one reaping true benefits from it. Running is quite a selfish activity when you think about it.

During the spring and summer months, it is not rare for me to spend 6-8 hours running on a Saturday. This means that I end up missing out on some bonding time with my family and that my parents have to give up their afternoon to look after the kids so that I can train.

The Life Lessons Learnt

All that time running by myself has given me a lot of time to think to myself, and a conclusion that I have reached is that along with the main things that I love about ultrarunning - the great views, the endorphins, the break from a hectic lifestyle - it also provides some great lessons that I would like to pass on to my children as they grow older.

for example, I want to instill in them a love for the outdoors and to stay healthy. I want them to value nature and to want to explore it themselves. When I train for a period of months and finish a race, I hope that they will realise that persistence is something that really pays off. I want them to learn all about following through with something and the satisfaction that is achieved when you reach a goal. I also want them to not be afraid of discomfort. Pain is something that you cannot avoid when ultra-running, and it is not something that you can avoid in life. My one hope is that they will learn not to be afraid of pain but to embrace it head on.