Mothers in Motion


By Lisa Unger


Running with Lilly

Adding a baby to our running family has presented many challenges, but is also revealing new joys that will become precious memories for all of us. We are finding that our new addition means a lot more equipment to pack, but she has certainly not deterred us from traveling or participating in any of the recreational activities that we normally enjoy. Lilly has gone with us to out of town races since she was about three months old. In January we traveled to Mobile, AL for the Food World 10k. At that event, Lilly and I watched while her daddy ran the race, and then Daddy took Lilly so I could run on the course. Later in March we went back to Mobile for the Azalea Trail 10k. I used the childcare facility provided by the local YMCA so that I could run the race too. A few times, such as at the Gate River Run, the Springtime 10k and the Rose City 10k, I was fortunate to have friends watch Lilly while I ran the races.

I had to wait until Lilly was almost five months old before I could really use our baby jogger. The owner’s manual suggested the baby should be at least 3 months old to ride in a jogger and at that time it was too cold to take Lilly with me. Since the advent of warmer weather (about March) I have been running and racing with Lilly, who is now 9 months old. Our first race together was the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans, LA. It was a 10k and I was not prepared for the effort it took to push her for more than 6 miles. While this race welcomed baby joggers, I found it very difficult to move through the crowd for the first two miles. It was during “the Classic” that I realized there is one very important piece of equipment that nobody told me about: A bell or horn to signal our presence to those ahead of us. Simply saying, “Excuse us” was not enough. We did manage, however, and I felt very proud of our accomplishment–not our time, but rather that we made it to the finish line at all! Since then, Lilly and I have run together in Pensacola at the Fiesta Run where we did the 5k and then jogged the rest of the way to the 10k finish area. We recently ran our “baby jogger PR” at the HuManatee 5k. It was also at the HuManatee 5k that we found the best protection from the deerflies was a mesh covering designed to fit around strollers and baby carriers. Our run at the Memorial Day Gate to Gate 4.4 Mile event was the first race that I managed to run in the same time as last year (all of our other races have been slower than last year, or previous years).

So far I have found that running while pushing the jogger (without being able to swing my arms) has made my runs more strenuous, labor-intensive and definitely slower than running alone. Pushing the jogger, however, seems to be adding to my arm strength, so when I do get to run “solo” I feel like my arm swing is much stronger than before. I’m still waiting for that to translate to faster times but in the meantime it is at least helping to tone my arms, legs and abdomen. I am enjoying running with my baby for several reasons other than just strength training. First of all, I know she’s safe–after all, she’s right there with me! Also, Lilly is with a babysitter all day long, so I don’t want to leave her with the sitter for any unnecessary time. On the days that I do have a sitter (even if it’s her daddy) I feel like I am running with a time limit. I find that I run fewer miles on these days so I can hurry back to Lilly. On days when I have her with me, however, we can go for as long as we like.

And how does Lilly like the jogger? Apparently she likes it very well. I can hear her giggle as we move past people waiting at bus stops, cyclists and other pedestrians. She has recently learned to wave and now does so at passers-by that she sees, much to their delight and my own. She does frequently fall asleep within a mile or two, though, so she is often napping by the time we finish. I have been very careful to use a 50 SPF sunscreen made especially for babies on all of her exposed parts. When we run in the afternoon sun, she wears a hat, long pants and socks, but usually not shoes. Recent studies have shown that babies who suffer sunburns early in their lives are at greater risk for skin cancer later in their lives, so we are being very careful to avoid sunburn. While the sidewalk may not be the first choice of most roadrunners, it is the only safe place for Lilly and I. We still have to be very careful at intersections. We always take full advantage of the break while we wait for the crossing light! Crosswalks are also dangerous as most cars fail to stop at the stop bar and instead proceed into the crosswalk and sometimes all the way out the bike lane. Since we started running together in March, we have experienced a few minor issues with traffic, usually resulting in Lilly and I having to stop even though we have the right of way. We don’t want to find out what happens to babies and runners who challenge poor drivers.

The 3-wheeled jogger that I am using was manufactured by In Step and is their 5k model. My jogger is lightweight and it folds and assembles easily. However, the front wheel has to be removed in order for the jogger to fit in my trunk. The front wheel has a quick release mechanism to aid in removing and replacing the wheel. But if the wheel is not on the axle perfectly straight, the jogger will pull to one side just like an auto with tires out of alignment. I have also found that the nut and bolt assemblies that allow the jogger to fold in half are easily jolted out of position. Each time we enter a crosswalk and reach the other side, we hit a bump where the pavement connects. Some bumps are slight and others are jarring. I have learned where on our course the most severe bumps are and lift the front wheel when we are crossing them to reduce the jolt. This lesson has come after losing the nuts on both sides on separate occasions and having to “limp” back to the car with the jogger sagging to one side. Our 5k model has plenty of storage space with a basket below the seat, a drawstring pouch behind the seat and zippered pouches on either side of the canopy. The canopy itself adjusts to several different positions and has a clear “window” through which I can see Lilly, or secure the flap with velcro to provide full canopy coverage though it does not extend far enough to protect Lilly in low light. In Step also manufactures 10k and 15k models with additional features. When shopping for a baby jogger some key features to consider are the weight of the apparatus, how easy (or difficult) it is to fold, load into a car and carry, and also the type of wheels as compared to your usual training terrain. There are several manufacturers that make a variety of baby joggers with various options. Next month will feature excerpts from a review of 8 models conducted by Jonathan Beverly, editor of Running Times magazine.

**Note: Since the time of this writing, I have discovered the FSU bike trail. While short (only about a mile each way) it eliminates all traffic concerns and has become our regular running location.