Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
Running résumé: McDowell and Shea are co-authors of the book "Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity," (Andrews McMeel, 2010) and "Train Like a Mother: How to Cross Any Finish Line and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity," which will be released in mid-March.
McDowell has two kids, has finished two marathons and has her eye on an Ironman in 2013, while Shea, mother of three, has crossed seven marathon finish lines and will cross her eighth at the 2012 Boston Marathon in April.
Don't think, just go. The hardest thing about being a mother runner is finding time to train -- and having your running cause as few ripples in the family schedule as possible. Early morning runs are usually easiest, but motivation can be hard to find when the bed is warm and the sky is pitch black. Lay out your clothes and anything else you need -- pre-run banana, water, Garmin -- the night before, and when the alarm goes off, say to yourself, "Don't think, just go." Then do it. (The same four words also work when it's later in the day and your kids are begging you not to run. Don't think about guilt. We promise: They'll survive the hour or so you're gone.)
Mine a mantra. Everyone hits rough patches in training and races. To send those mental-monkeys packing, have a few motivating mantras in your mental toolbox. On long runs, when Sarah's legs are feeling tired, she tells herself, "Pick 'em up and lay 'em down." ("'em" being her feet). On the track, her mind can't handle too many words, so she thinks, "Strong and fast; strong and fast." (She's talking relative terms here; she's not qualifying for the Olympics anytime soon.) And in a hilly marathon, she hit a really rough patch around Mile 15. The word "believe" popped into her head, and she repeated that empowering word over and over for the second half of that race. Words can be as powerful as our muscles.
Have a fueling strategy--and stick with it. Sarah is convinced her undoing in her slowest marathon was largely due to postponing when she took in her first energy gel. On long runs she'd practiced eating a gel at Mile 4. But in this marathon (Nike Women's), a series of monster hills started around Mile 3.5. She was too busy sucking in air to suck down a GU, so she didn't take in any calories until Mile 7. By then her muscles -- and brain -- were running on fumes. Now she's borderline OCD about taking in carb-calories in races. For instance, in a half-marathon, she swallows a gel at Mile 4, Mile 8 and again at Mile 11. That final one may sound like a bit of a waste, but she's done it in numerous halfsies, and that third GU helps her have a strong finish.