Running with a stroller is so much harder than without. But it also is so much more badass when racing. It feels so empowering to pass other runners on the course, knowing you are putting in even more effort. And actually, after running with a jogging stroller for some time I bet you even get used to it.
Make no mistakes, I absolutely rather not run with the stroller. But unfortunately, I had no one to watch my son when I had the urge to get in my run. I am very happy that it was this way.
For starters it made me work out harder and push myself which was beneficial in gaining my speed and endurance post-baby. I really don’t think I would’ve progressed so fast in my running after having him if I wasn’t running with the stroller so often.
It also helped me develop that mental grit needed never to give up. I’ve pushed that damn stroller up countless hills to the point where I was able to race a hilly 5k doing so without feeling like I was dying.
My son also benefited so much from it. It meant fresh air more often and enjoying nature. It meant visiting parks and getting to run around too after my run was done. It was a different way to bond and enjoy time together—even if we were talking. It made my son love being in the stroller and coming along for rides. And “watching” me run all the time influenced him to also love running. Come visit me at home and my son races the length of the kitchen on the daily and “races” in circles in the living room.
Here are the best tips for racing with a stroller when you have to—or want to—bring baby along for the ride.
Get A Jogging Stroller
Make sure you have a decent jogging stroller. This is the most important thing. You want tires that are thicker to handle terrains. There are some with a stationary front wheel, others that swivel. I prefer the swivel with the option to lock. You also don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on a decent stroller. I got my BOB (in my opinion the best) from the Facebook Marketplace for a fraction of its retail cost. There is nothing wrong with a gently used jogging stroller since it’s only used for runs anyway.
Also, make sure your little one isn’t too little to come along for the ride. It’s recommended they are 6 months and older or can sit up unassisted in order to ride safely in a jogging stroller without their heads bobbing along. Ask your doctor and do some research.
Practice Makes Perfect
It can be extremely hard to race a 5k or longer with a stroller in general, let alone without any practice. Use some training runs to get used to running with the jogging stroller. This will help build up that muscle memory and get used to the extra weight and energy needed to push while running.
This also means adjusting to a new running form. Pushing means you need at least one hand on the handlebars. There are those who push with both hands to let the stroller roll ahead and then speed up to it and repeat. There are those who push with one hand, alternating, and then those who push with both hands. I’ve found that alternating hands works best. It doesn’t require the extra energy the first requires and still lets the runner pump their arm. I often find I have a dominant arm that prefers to push.
Racing From The Back Of The Line
The most important thing to know about racing with a stroller is running from the back of the starting line. This is proper racing etiquette. Some race directors instruct stroller runners to do this, but it’s a general rule always. This is to make sure that you aren’t running into others or swerving around when things can get crowded.
Races typically used time chipping so just because you start at the back of the pack doesn’t mean your time is effected. The race starts when you cross the mat at the starting line.
There is a good chance that if you are a fast (ish) runner you will pass people along the way. By this point, the crowds open up and navigating shouldn’t be too hard. However, I’ve been at plenty of races where I’ve had to slow down, dodge others, and even stop to try to get around others. It’s even harder when there are lots of stroller racers. Stick to one side of the road or get ready to yell out for other runners to watch out. Also, expect racers not to hear your thank to headphones.
Running your first race with a stroller should preferably be a flat course. This allows the runner to learn what to expect. Racing with hills and pushing a stroller is so much harder. So start flat.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t work your way to hillier events. I ran a 10k in Sparta, NJ that including massive inclines. It was a challenge for sure, but the downhill felt so good. Just like running without the stroller, you can make up for time going down. However, it’s still a challenge because your hand is on the brake and you are also pulling while gravity is pushing so that your baby doesn’t go flying down without you.
Stroller running requires baby is happy in the stroller. Time training runs around nap time and you won’t have to worry about your little one crying and fussing. However, most races are in the morning. Chances are baby is wide awake at 9 a.m. This means having snacks, something to drink and toys along in the stroller. I’ve also had to pass along my phone for videos to entertain my little guy, so get used to running without music.
Get The Gear
It is a smart idea to get additional running stroller gear to make sure the baby is safe and comfortable. This includes a weather shield when its windy, a drizzle or cold. Stock up on warm blankets for cooler fall days and a stroller fan for the summer.
There are also accessories like handlebar storage that can hold your phone and keys and water bottle. It might be a good idea to get some stroller toys that fasten on depending on the baby’s age for entertainment.
Set Realistic Goals
Maybe you ran sub 30 5ks before baby, but it takes time to get back to where we once where after giving birth. And let’s face it, running with a stroller slows us down. That means setting realistic time goals for when racing with the stroller. Make it more of a healthy activity you two do together and enjoy the run. Take the pressures away and applaud yourself for even racing with a stroller. At almost every single race I did while pushing my son along at least one person said something encouraging to me. That helped to push me forward and made me feel like a superwoman. It makes it all worth it.
Speaking for experience, after running enough races with a stroller you can absolutely crush goals while doing so. There are still races where that stroller runner passes me even at my prime and without the stroller. That can be you.
Look For Family-Friendly Races
I prefer to race alone or with my running friends, but I have a soft spot for the races I’ve done with my son. I purposefully look for family-friendly races that we can do together. These typically have kids race options for the little ones where they too can get a medal. I love that I can run and then he can too.
The bonus to racing with a stroller is that you have a place to hold all your gels and hydration without having to wear a belt or vest. It makes you a stronger and faster runner when without the stroller, plus allows you to bond with baby and promote a healthy lifestyle by leading by example.