More and more women are running marathons today. I love it. I'm proud that I started marathon running 15 years ago, before I had kids and was able to successfully work it into my lifestyle ever since. Most of my PRs (personal records) were before kids, but I was still able to maintain some great performances, even with training that was constrained by middle-of-the-night wake-ups and less time overall.
The key for me is the early morning workout. This doesn't work for those with partners that are up and out of the house early. However, there have been many runs that I began at 5:30 am (or earlier!), so that I could get up to two hours before needing to be home. My husband, and thankfully the kids, have always slept in, giving me a lot of time knowing that I'm not missed. Other friends will run later in the evening or work something in during the day. That's harder for me, because I'm almost guaranteed to be too tired and miss the run. I would rather run in the morning when I'm tired - I usually perk up after a little bit. And if I don't, I still get some running in.
I know that I'm lucky to have kids that don't get up at 6. Although once they are about 7, they might be able to read quietly for awhile. Somehow, my kids got moved onto a later wake-up schedule, even when toddlers. They were rarely up at 6, but more like 7:00 or 7:30. My husband and I worked a deal when we had our newborns. If they woke before 7 am, I had to get them (we had the night mapped out between us), but at 7:01, I could escape to a run. I didn't have as long to run, but at least I got something. Even if I was dog-tired after being up for multiple feedings, I would still go. I napped as soon as the baby napped. I actually ran marathons, at 4 months and at 9 months after having kids. This was under my doctor's supervision, and being cautious. I ran throughout my pregnancies, even managing a jog-waddle on the day of delivery, but that's another story.
I gradually skipped my double workouts as I didn't want to miss family time. If I could work a little cross-training or weightlifting at the gym into my lunch time, that was great. Sometimes, I had to do short workouts, often 20 minutes of upper body strengthening. I was lucky to have a gym down the block. With my new job, I might have found an alternate in our business complex. I will take advantage of that.
The most important element is a supportive partner. We have been able to work out my schedule. Not every day is a long run, so I can plan my runs around our work schedules. My husband is almost more adept than I am at getting the kids ready for school in the morning. Whether I'm still on a run or frantically getting ready for work, he's got them dressed and having breakfast. However this means that on the other days, he gets a break and I work in my cross-training or easy runs to accommodate all of us. I will also modify or skip workouts if I need to.
My Saturday long runs became a ritual within our family. With kids, I started leaving earlier and earlier. I did learn that there is a "too early" in that I'm so tired that I wear myself down. My goal was to minimize time away from the family. Soon my husband and kids learned to get up and have a leisurely morning together and the day would start when I got home. Because I'm the most active one, they were able to start slowly and enjoy the free time while I was out. I will often walk in and one of them will ask how my run was, as they are genuinely interested. I try to think of stories or descriptions of things I saw to entertain them.
When we travel, I often tried doing a long run on the weekend, but I feel that it interferes with our vacation plans. I now often try to work in a really early run some day during the week - when I don't have early meetings and my husband can drop off.
What's critical to this working?
Having a plan and continually checking on the plan. I have modified my own workout from the beginning. I have occasionally had a coach and used their plan, but regardless of who's plan it is, I have a starting point to plan my week. Can't do the 8 mile tempo run on Monday? Can I do it Tuesday instead? If I'm on a business trip, what can I realistically do on the treadmill? Sometimes, I find that it's best not to stress about it. I pick the one key workout and try to fit that in for the week. Or, I try to do a short leisurely run (enjoying the sights of the city), a workout at the gym, stretching in my room or just catch up on some sleep.
My times are not improving anymore and I've discovered that skipping stretching to save time does more damage in the long run. But, I'm still running and enjoying it. It's part of who I am and my kids can see how much happier I am when I do something that I love. When I was recently injured, I was touched that they kept wishing for my injury to heal - knowing it would make me happy. I love that sometimes we can do little local races together. We can share things that make each of us unique. Doing this for me takes work, and help from the others, and I don't forget that. I don't take any run for granted.