Today my husband James and I ran the local Eden Run to the Lake race which benefits our local Eden Medical Center, where I gave birth to our daughter Jane last May. This was our first run as a whole family, which involved running with a double stroller with two kids. Now, in spite of really liking to break personal records as much as possible, I am not actually focused on running fast at a race. For me, attending a race is about being social, and this run especially was about us getting out there as a family and participating in a community event.
Since I usually train on a treadmill, I do not expect to breaking personal records on a run during a race while I push a stroller. There are too many possible reasons why I would have to slow down or even stop during a race when having kids with me, so I simply do not expect a great time, but I always give it my best where possible.
Not a whole lot of information is usually given out about running with strollers, but the general guideline/etiquette is:
1. Check with the race organizers to make sure that strollers are allowed.
Not all races post information specifically stating whether they allow strollers and websites such as Running in the USA, Active.com, or Runner’s World do not have a search filter for “jogging strollers”, so in order to find out if races are jog stroller friendly, you have to contact each individual race director.
2. Start in the back.
If you are running with a stroller, you are automatically expected to start in the back. You might not end up staying in the back, especially if you do jog as opposed to walk, but you need to start in the back so you are not rude to the serious racers. In general race etiquette, faster runners should line up at the front of the starting line, slower runners and walkers at the back. line up is quite important as nothing is more annoying to a runner at the start of a race than having to weave around slower runners after the gun goes off. Most races use timing chips, so the time it takes you to reach the starting line won’t count in your final net time.
Generally I find that races that has the running with stroller category will have a later start time for this category. See Jane Run race had the stroller racers start 15 minutes after the regular 5K runners. If you are running or jogging with the stroller, you will still end up having to weave around walkers. Every race will have those walkers who walk on the left or worse, several might line up next to each other in a row protest style, even though general etiquette dictate that you run or walk no more than two abreast.
3. Travel on the right and pass on the left.
This is a general run/jog etiquette, whether you are on the road, trail, or a race. The etiquette when it comes to passing is to alert the person by either tapping their shoulder on the left side or say “On your left” before you pass to alert them of your presence. Most of the time people let you pass, but sometimes there are people who hate the idea of being passes by someone with a stroller and they will try to run ahead. Let them.
4. Keep Moving or Go to the Right Shoulder
Keep moving at water stations and even at the finish line so you don’t create accidents where people run into you. If you must stop for any reason, go to the right shoulder.
5. Use the Right Equipment and Be Mindful of Road and Weather Conditions for Yourself and for Your Child(ren)
Make sure you use the proper stroller and consider the road conditions. If you are dealing with young children, make sure the road conditions are fairly smooth and not too bumpy. Most jogging strollers will say specifically that they do not recommend children younger than 6 months sitting in the jogging stroller (unless you have an infant carseat adapter). You will want to make sure that you have a front wheel that is either fixed or has a switch that allows it to be fixed so that you don’t have any accidents. NEVER run hands-free. Jogging strollers are designed to be able to move with little effort on your part so most jogging stroller will have a strap that you tie to your wrist to prevent the stroller from running away from you. I took my baby girl out of the stroller when she was fussing at one point (this was after the race) and the stroller nearly rolled away from me.
If you are not familiar with the road conditions, just ask the race organizers, who will gladly tell you whether the terrain is appropriate for a stroller or not. If you have the time, you can always try out the the route ahead of time, though I never have that luxury so I just email the race organizers. I emailed several race organizers to plan which races I will participate in with or without stroller and they were all very helpful in telling me which parts are OK with races or not.
6. Have Fun
When you are jogging with a stroller, getting your best time should not be too high on your priority. You will not be as fast, so you might as well just go with the flow and have fun. My baby girl cried mid-race, so I pulled over to the side, took her out, and actually jogged holding her to cheer her up until she was feeling better. I then strapped her back into the stroller and then continued to finish. I am a parent foremost, so I have to tend to my child’s needs more than I worry about my finishing time.
I am looking forward to my next race, which will probably be without a stroller. The next race with a stroller is in September for Title 9K and I am looking forward to that one!
For more on running etiquette, check out Road Runners Club of America.