So, you’ve decided that you want to run a race while pushing your kid or kids in a stroller.
You are such a brave soul!
Pushing your kid in a stroller is a great way to involve them in your racing experiences. You love racing, so why not show your kid what it’s all about. They can soak up the race environment and get a feel for all of the excitement.
Stock Photo: 123RF.com/blasbike
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Now, if they are really young, they may not even know what is going on. But older kids can participate in many of activities on race day. They can help you pick up your packet, warm up, and cheer you on when you need it most, going up that big hill, “Run, Mommy, Run”, or at the finish line, “Faster, Mommy”. They can even help you accept your hard-earned medal. And maybe you’ll be nice enough to let them carry it and wear it! Because who doesn’t like a shiny medal?! Involving your kids in the race can help them see why you train so hard, and that hard work pays off. And that you finish what you started.
It also helps alleviate some of that Mommy guilt we all get when we are away from the kids for a while and make time for ourselves. This way, the kids come with you and you get to race. Best of both worlds!
Unless you find an awesome downhill course, racing with a stroller definitely won’t be easy. Then you will fly and maybe get a crazy PR! That would be amazing! But it can totally be worth it.
So, before you sign up for that race, consider the advice below. This will help you prepare for the race and get you and your kid over the starting line and moving along to the finish.
11 Things to Consider Before Racing with a Stroller
1. Your experience pushing your kid(s) in a stroller
Before you decide to race while pushing a stroller, you’ll want to consider your experience.
Have you pushed your kid(s) in a stroller before?
What is the longest distance you have run with them?
The longest time?
If you have not pushed your kids in a race before, you should have a practice run first. Get in at least a few runs beforehand to see how it feels. How long you go, will depend on your race distance.
If you are running a 5K, you should get in a few runs of at least 3 miles each. Four to five miles would be even better (so during your long run) so you definitely know you can make the race distance. If this is your first 5k, read 23 Tips to Rock Your First 5k.
If you are running a 10K or half marathon while pushing your kid, then you rock! You are much braver and stronger than me. Aim for at least 1-2 of your longer runs involving pushing the stroller with your kids. Be prepared because the distance will be more taxing on you.
My husband is usually the one that pushing our son in races. He has run a local half marathon and several 5K’s while pushing. Although he likes to do it because it gives him an excuse to run slower. He still beat me during that half marathon, while pushing our 18 month old son. But I was also out of shape. So that’s my excuse for him beating me.
Your pace will generally be slower than your normal running pace. How much slower depends on if you’re pushing a single or double stroller and how much your kids weigh, especially in relation to your own weight or strength. My son and the stroller together weigh about a third of my weight, even more so now. So, with that and the fact that my upper body is pretty puny (although I do have a strong core), means I struggle quite a bit pushing him on just easy runs. Add hills to that, and I’m huffing and puffing to get up them, and may even have to walk them at times if I’m really tired.
For you strong mommas out there, you may not have as much problem pushing a stroller as I do. But you’ll still want to get in some runs close to race distance. Continue to rock on!
For those like me that struggle while pushing a stroller, the good news is, the more you push, the easier it will get. You will get stronger and be able to go longer. You will notice a difference in your runs when you don’t push, as well. Your core and arms will get stronger and it will increase your lung capacity.
2. Does the race allow strollers?
You will want to check on this before you decide to race. Nothing worse than getting to the race (if you are signing up on race day) and finding out that you can’t run it with a stroller. So dragging your kids out of bed early, may have been for nothing.
Nowadays, it seems like most races, other than the really big ones and ones where you have to qualify (like the Boston Marathon), will allow strollers in races.
I ran the Lady Distance Classic, a women’s only race that included a 10k and 5k run/walk and BOB stroller 5k, many years ago in Blue Ash, Ohio. It was the first race I had run that was only for women. Although there was a man that decided to run it and won :/ Not sure what he was trying to prove. I thought it was great to run a women’s only race. It was nice to see all the guys on the sidelines, including my husband who’s a runner, cheering us on toward the finish.
There were lots of fast women there that day, but I did manage to place in my age group, so I got a running jacket for a prize! This race encouraged women to push their kids in a stroller. They even had a stroller division and best of all, one of the prizes was a brand new running stroller! How cool is that!
There are plenty of options out there for racing with a stroller. The shortest and easiest distance to enter is a 5k. So, if you haven’t raced while pushing a stroller before, I highly recommend starting with a 5k (include link to rocking 5k), before tackling the longer races.
3. Make sure you have the proper jogging stroller and that it’s race ready
There are many types of jogging strollers available to choose from, so make sure yours is made for jogging. Most jogging strollers have larger tires, with a single tire in the front that can lock in place for a smooth ride. Many of them have hand brakes, although not all do. So if you run lots of hills, you may want to get one that has brakes, so you can slow it down on the downhill. They also have a brake for the back wheels for when you are stopped, so the stroller doesn’t roll away.
The B.O.B. Revolution and Baby Jogger are popular jogging strollers. They are fairly expensive, averaging over $350, but well worth it if you plan to push your kid often while you run. I have the Baby Jogger Summit X3 and love it. It has a rubber handle, which my husband and I both prefer to the foamy one on many jogging strollers, because you can wipe it clean.
The foam ones tend to absorb sweat. Which isn’t too bad, except when you are running with other people and sharing in the pushing. I’ve helped push friend’s kids in strollers before that had the foam, and it was always so gross and sweaty (and squishy!) when it was my turn to push. And no amount of wiping would get rid of that. Yuck!
Besides having the right stroller for running, you will also want to make sure your stroller is ready to race. Check the tires, air pressure, covers to make sure they are operating properly, and brakes if you have them. Make sure your front tire can lock in place and doesn’t wiggle when you run. You won’t have to worry about this if your tire is always locked and can’t be moved to a swivel position.
Do a test run the day before to check this out. You don’t want to get part-way through the race and have your tire start to wobble and vibrate. That will make it very hard to finish the race.
4. Your pace will vary depending on the terrain
As mentioned above, your pace will be different. It will generally be slower going uphill, and you may even have to walk. But the downhill can pull you along at a very fast pace, possibly faster than you normally run.
Don’t fight it too much. Let your body kind of free fall with it. Make sure your stroller strap is attached to you so there is no chance it will get away from you. This is also where the brake will come into play. If you feel the stroller is pulling you too fast, then apply the brake a little to slow it down until you are comfortable.
I personally love the feeling of it pulling me down a hill. It makes running seem a bit effortless, if only for a few brief moments. Enjoy it! Your pace will still likely be a bit slower on the flat areas while pushing compared to running without pushing a stroller. But it may not take a lot of extra effort to push, compared to running uphill.
So set your race goals accordingly. If you check out the race course and elevation ahead of time, you’ll get a better idea of how your pace will likely be on race day.
5. Be prepared to stop, possibly multiple times during the race
This will be one of the biggest factors in deciding to race with a stroller. Odds are, you WILL have to stop at least ONCE during your race, whether to pick up something your kid dropped on the ground, to give them their paci that they can’t seem to find, to give them a snack, to fix a tire or brake, or many other possible reasons. But it does always seem to happen.
So be prepared for it and do NOT get mad if you have to stop. That’s just part of the joys of pushing a stroller.
The following are things to consider for your kid while you’re pushing him in the stroller.
6. Check the weather and dress your kids properly
If it’s going to be warm on race day, make sure to put your kid in cool clothing, like shorts and short-sleeves. You will also want to apply sunscreen so they don’t get burned.
If the weather is going to be chilly or cold, make sure they have on enough layers to keep them warm. Long-sleeves, pants, jacket, and even a blanket will keep them nice and warm. Also remember to put on a hat that covers their ears, since heat escapes quickly through the head. They may need gloves, too, depending on how cold it is.
7. Entertainment (for the kid)
Depending on the age of your kid and the length of the race, you may have to provide some form of entertainment during your race. If your kid is one of those rare breeds that actually sleeps in the stroller, then you are very lucky! You won’t have to have any entertainment unless she wakes up.
My son hates sleep in all fashion, and always has. So, he has yet to fall asleep in the stroller. He is usually wide awake and likes to talk the whole time. So that actually entertains me for a while. But I can’t usually respond, you know, do to all the huffing and puffing I’m doing.
Sometimes he asks me lots of questions, and sometimes he just wants me to sing. I have not mastered that yet, although I have tried it a couple of times. I’m sure that is quite a sight to others, as they see the crazy mom singing while running. Hey, anything to keep my kid occupied and entertained while he has to ride along with me, even though he really doesn’t want to.
For younger kids or babies, you can provide a toy or two that attach to the stroller, like these, so they can play with it, but not throw it on the ground. Also, the cloth books that can attach to the stroller work great. For the baby that likes to chew, you can use the Sophie the Giraffe Teether. This is easy for baby to hold. But they may throw or drop it, so be prepared to stop and pick it up.
If your baby or kid takes a paci, be sure to bring at least 2 in case one is lost or falls out. It will work best if you can clip it to his clothes so you don’t have to worry about it. For older kids, you can let them watch cartoons during some of the race.
My husband lets our son, Cameron, watch cartoons on his iphone if he’s good for a few miles and doesn’t fuss too much. He usually stops at the turnaround on his running route, turns it on and gives it to him. So far, we’ve been lucky and Cameron hasn’t thrown it on the ground.
He has an Amazon Kindle Fire Kids Edition that is also a great product for kids, with a very good foam case that has lasted through many drops by our son. He can play his games or watch one of the few movies that we have downloaded to it. So, this can keep him occupied for a while, if the race doesn’t keep his interest.
For shorter races, like a 5k, you may not need or want to use any electronic devices. But they definitely help on longer races.
8. Potty Stops
Copyright: axway / 123RF Stock Photo
If you are racing a 5K or 10K, you likely won’t have to worry about potty stops. However, for longer races, the chances of needing to stop go up.
If your kid is potty training, make sure you have them try to use the potty right before the race. And try to limit fluids beforehand. This will at least bide you some time before they say they have to go again, and hopefully you’ll be done with your race by then. You can also put them in a pull-up, which may help you for a longer race.
However, if they insist they have to poop, then you will be looking for a porta potty, and fast! You should probably get an idea of what mile marker they will be available, if at all. And make sure you have wipes and hand sanitizer with you in the stroller. Because we all know how nasty those porta potty’s can get. Gross!
You will want to pack an extra pair of clothes, just in case they have an accident. For younger kids and babies, this will depend on if they even get fussy enough that you know that they need a diaper change. So, make sure you change their diaper as close to start time as possible. You will want to carry your diaper changing supplies in the stroller with you, just in case you need them. Again, for shorter races, they will likely be fine.
Now, things can get a little trickier if you actually need a potty stop. What you do in this situation is a personal preference. I’ve heard other runners that say they leave their kids buckled in the stroller outside the porta potty and leave the door opened a crack so they can still see them. Some runners, of older kids, have them sing while they are in the potty, so they know they are still okay.
My husband hasn’t encountered this in a race, and I’ve only had this issue pop up during training runs. I usually bring my son into the potty with me and just tell him not to touch anything, which is definitely easier said than done with a toddler.
Best way to avoid this is make sure you go right before the start of the race, and also don’t eat anything with a lot of fiber the morning of or night before the race. If you are lucky enough to be running with a friend who is willing to stop with you, then she can watch your kids while you make a quick stop.
So, you can pray to the racing gods before the race that there will be no need for potty stops.
Again, the need for snacks will depend on the duration and time of day of the race. For a 5K, you will likely be okay. Just remember to give your kid a snack or breakfast beforehand, depending on the time of day, so they won’t ask for anything along the way.
For a 10K or longer race, you will likely want to have a snack on-hand, just in case your kid gets hungry. We have two jogging strollers, a Bob Ironman I bought at a Peddler’s Mall for a great deal before I had my son and the Baby Jogger Summit X3.
The Ironman stroller has a pocket on the inside of the stroller on each side. So before runs or races, we put a snack in one pocket and a water bottle or sippie cup in the other. My son can easy get to both if he needs to. The Baby Jogger doesn’t have inside pockets, so I just put the snack inside an opened Ziplock baggie and set it next to him so he can get it. And I set his water next to the other side of him. He is usually pretty good about handing us the baggie when he’s done. We just put it in a pocket or under the stroller seat.
Good snacks are things that aren’t too messy and aren’t a choking hazard. We like to give Cheese-its, Goldfish Crackers, yogurt in a pouch, granola bars or bites, and sometimes we will have peanut butter and crackers. We also give him these delicious pumpkin muffins that he loves.
What you choose, is up to you. I would love to have healthier options, but I have a very picky eater, and I don’t want meltdowns during a run or race due to him being hungry. For older kids, make sure you have water available that they can drink if they get thirsty, or a bottle if they are still using one. This will be very important if it is hot out.
Also, be prepared in case they drop or throw the cup out of the stroller, as mentioned above. If you are a momma who is breastfeeding, you will want to time a feeding as close to the race as possible. This will help you and your baby, and hopefully your baby won’t cry any because they are hungry. If you are bottle-feeding, try to give them the bottle early enough so you have time to burp them (if they are really young) or at least to let their tummies settle some. The stroller can be a bumpy ride and you don’t want your baby to spit up all over the place during the race.
10. Emotions (what happens if they get tired and cranky, or worse, start crying or screaming!)
This can be a tricky subject. Babies and toddlers are very emotional, since that’s the way they often communicate, babies by crying and toddlers by crying or throwing tantrums. Babies and toddlers tend to get emotional when they are either tired, hungry, thirsty, or have a dirty diaper.
So, before the race starts, make sure all those needs are met to the best of your ability. Some kids are easily overstimulated or don’t like crowds. So, consider this before you race. They may be perfectly fine on solo runs, but races can have lots of people in close proximity to each other, and they may not like it. And some of those people may want to talk to your kid before, during or after the race.
This may become too much for your kid. Hopefully you can make it through your race without a full-on meltdown. But sometimes it can’t be avoided.
On regular runs, we’ve gotten partway through and our son did not want to be in the stroller any longer, and started to cry and throw a fit. So, we cut the run short.
There are times when you can keep going because you know your kid will be perfectly fine if you finish just one more mile. But you have to remember that it wasn’t the kid’s choice to go for a ride. Some kids really do hate it, which is another reason you should have a practice run or two before you race. They may even get motion-sickness from riding.
And if your kid does start crying or has a meltdown during the race, it may be best to stop for a moment and make sure they don’t need a snack, aren’t too hot/cold, or have a dirty diaper and tend to anything else they may need. Sometimes babies just need to be held for a minute and they will be fine. If they are unconsolable, you may want to drop out of the race.
There’s no point finishing, especially if you still have a long way to go, with a crying baby or toddler in the stroller. And you will get lots of evil looks.
11. Be prepared to call off your race or drop out
This will likely be the hardest one to accept. But you have to be prepared to call off the race or drop out in certain circumstances, or at least accept that you may not be pushing your kid in the race after all.
If you make it to race day and the weather is bad; rain, storms, really windy, really hot or cold, you will want to consider whether you should race with your kid in those kinds of conditions.
If it is just a light or steady rain, you can put the rain shield on your stroller. Make sure you have installed this before and know how, so you aren’t trying to put it on in the last few moments before the race. As has happened to my husband and me before a half marathon a few years ago.
We arrived late to the race, having only about 15 minutes to get to the start line. Which is a bad idea!! Always get there plenty early, especially if you have kids and are planning to push them. It was a bit windy and we weren’t sure if it was going to rain, so we tried to put the rain shield on with no luck. So, we just gave up. We ran and crossed the starting line right after the gun had already gone off. As a result, we were in the back of the pack.
If it is below 40 degrees, you may not want to run with the stroller. You can bundle your kid up in lots of clothes and blankets, but unless they are older, and can tell you, you won’t be able to tell if they are getting too cold while you are running.
Again, you can try a rain shield to see if it keeps them a little warmer. But your kid’s safety is number one. If it’s too hot and humid, and also sunny, you may want to reconsider pushing the stroller. You may not be able to tell if your kid is getting too hot or getting too much sun, until it’s too late and they feel dizzy or get burned. Young kids and babies don’t regulate heat very well and can overheat very easily and in a short amount of time. It’s just not worth it.
If it is too windy, it will be hard for you to push the stroller anyway. And the baby or kid may get too much wind in their ears and get an ear ache. So, take the weather into account on race day before you push your kids in the stroller, especially if there are extreme conditions at the time. Also, if you or your kid is sick, don’t risk making it worse. You can always race on another day.
Hopefully these tips will help you if you have decided to race while pushing your kid in a stroller. Races are a lot of fun, and many kids like the excitement of running with mommy or daddy. They may also be your cheering team, with “GO faster”, “you’re fast”, “pass those people”, and the best is “I love you”.
Let me know how your race goes and if these tips were helpful. Leave a comment, send me an email, or message me on Facebook.