Fitness: Mum's the word when it comes to running

Age, time and even pacemakers don’t get in the way of some mothers’ runs


With Mother’s Day just gone and International Women's Day on Tuesday, it’s time to honour all the mums who have taken up running over the past few years. As a mother there is never enough time in the day; there is always something else to be done. Gradually as babies start to grow up, many mums have managed to fit in a little time for themselves and taken on something they never imagined possible. They have become runners. And some have shared the experience with their daughters.

We talk to some of those mums and daughters about their running experiences together.

Marie and Dee

There are not too many people who start running the same year as they get their free bus pass but Marie is one of the inspiring few. Marie’s daughter Dee had started running about four years previously while training in Ballymaloe Cookery School. She says her motivation was to run off all the cakes she was eating. The positive impact running was having on her life prompted her to suggest running to her own mum.

At the time, Marie had a pacemaker fitted and was struggling to adapt to it. She also had a shoulder injury which prevented her playing tennis or golf. Naturally Marie was cautious about running due to her age, but she joined a group of other nervous ladies in Sandymount last September on the ForgetTheGym beginners running course. Since then Marie hasn’t looked back.

Dee feels her mum’s enthusiasm is infectious and most humorous of all are her smug 7am texts to the rest of the family saying she has just completed her early morning run. Marie says age is not a barrier to taking up running, reminding people that they can set their own goals, goals that suit their stage in life. She says that she may never run as fast as some of the other girls, who are young enough to be her daughters, but says it’s not about the competition. The running highlights for Marie? Increased energy levels and improved health. But best of all? Marie and Dee have something new to share and talk about.

There is an edge of competition however – at least in running fashion stakes. Dee laughs that Marie has all the latest gear, gadgets and apps, putting her to shame.

Ailbhe and Feilim

At 18, Feilim started running with his mum, Ailbhe, and dad, Eoin, when we launched our Irish Times Get Running programme in 2014. Ailbhe admits she never thought she would run.

Being over 50, she had assumed running might not be for her. Feilim has autism and she was keen to get him involved in some form of exercise. He wanted to stay at home with her so she had to put on her running shoes to ensure he ran too. Following the plan, all three of them made it to their first 5km, crossing the finish line together, one of Ailbhe’s greatest running memories. That event kick-started something special – now Ailbhe admits she might have become a little bit addicted to running.

Running has brought some welcome bonuses for the family. Ailbhe explains how running has made such a difference to Feilim’s demeanour and mood, calming him at times of stress. He is also a lot fitter.

As a family, the peer pressure works great too for motivation because if one of them goes running they all go, so it’s hard to make excuses. As a mum, the real reward for Ailbhe is at the finish line of the races, seeing the huge smile and sense of achievement on Feilim’s face when he finishes a race and gets his medal.

Feilim now really enjoys running and often runs the local parkruns with his mum when his dad is not there to pace him. Having moved on from 5km, Feilim says he is all set for their local half marathon in Kinvara in March.

His big goal for the year is his first marathon. In May, Feilim will travel with his parents to Denmark to take part in the Copenhagen Marathon. Impressive.

Sarah and Aoife

In 2014, when her husband, Martin, signed up to Get Running in 2014, Sarah decided to join him. She admits she didn’t love it in the beginning as she ran and walked the roads of Longford, but she wanted to see if she could get to 5km. Sarah reminisces that running her first 5km was one of the hardest but the best runs she ever did. Since the early days of 5km, Sarah has surprised herself and her family by building on her distance to 10km, half marathon and last year she completed the Dublin City Marathon. Setting goals and following a plan to get there is what has helped her continue her running, she says.

Sarah’s 12-year-old daughter, Aoife, has been inspired by her mum and has now decided to follow in her footsteps. Aoife is following our Get Running Beginners Programme. So far Aoife explains that she is loving the step-by-step weekly plans and videos and likes that she doesn’t have to run fast. She also says she loves the time she gets to spend with her mum on the run.

Sarah is thrilled Aoife is running, especially that it was her own decision to get started. She loves that Aoife can see the benefits running gives and admits that she would have loved to have had that insight at 12. Moving from chief supporter to running buddy, Aoife and Sarah now have a shared interest and hobby which they both hope will last into the future. Aoife tells me that she thinks her mum comes back happier after a run, so as long as they are both running the mood in the house is better too.

For other mums who would like to be in Sarah’s shoes, her advice is to give it a go. If you follow the plan, taking it one run at a time, you will get there. “If I did, anyone can,” she says. “The plan works and you just have to believe in yourself that you can and will follow it.”

It’s never easy starting out, but with stories like these, we all need to ask ourselves if we could be doing a little more to get out the door and maybe even help build the bond between mother and son or daughter. Running isn’t all about fitness. It’s motivation, camaraderie, shared goals and memories as well as the building of bonds between the generations that we could all do with a little more of in our lives.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes.

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