Fast, Female and Raising a Family
Three top-tier running mothers share their hard-earned success strategies
Kasie Enman at the Loon Mountain Race, New Hampshire, for the 2012 Women's U.S. Mountain Running Championships. Photo by Joe Viger.
Today’s top trail-running mamas are strong and seemingly invincible, racing over mountains and quickly reverting back to mommy mode. Their goal times are unrealistic for most of us, but we can all learn from how they’ve adapted their training to the ever-changing challenges of raising children.
All According to (No) Plan
Kasie Enman, 35, of Huntington, Vermont, is a planner by nature. A top mountain runner, she set a course record of 3:45:50 in a 32-kilometer Skyrunner World Series race on Italy’s Giir di Mont and earned the title of U.S. and World Mountain Running Champion in 2011.
“I like to have my sight set on something and be moving forward in that direction,” she says.
These days, however, following a plan has not been practical for Enman. Injury has been partly to blame. But more persistent is the constant interruption that comes with parenting young children; Enman has a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son.
Photo by Joe Viger.
To deal with her new reality, Enman has adopted a live-in-the-moment approach to training. She is quick to clarify that it is not a meditative practice, but rather her way of coping with the chaos. Take her training schedule. Ideally, she says she’d run consistently in the morning, but she can’t count on that time now. If her window comes one day at lunch and the next day during afternoon nap, she takes it. Her race calendar isn’t as predictable either. Schedules change. Sickness shows up. The unknowns multiply with each kid.
“Focusing on now instead of the future keeps me from being frustrated,” says Enman.
She uses the “now” approach to races, too. “I used to put a lot more focus in beforehand, visualization leading up to it,” says Enman. Now, she finds that she’s not fully thinking about a race until she’s started it.
The live-in-the-moment strategy is working well. Enman posted top finishes in the international Skyrunner Series last season, which required coordinating travel to Spain and Italy.
Running Mama's Moral: Seize the day, the classic carpe diem counsel. Make the most out of each day’s run by being present, engaged in head and heart, rather than attached to a busy mind.
Photo courtesy of Lucy Smith.
Revising the Race Calendar
Like Enman, Lucy Smith, 48, of Victoria, British Columbia, is a veteran runner. Smith is a five-time Canadian Cross Country Champion and has been on the national team for triathlon, duathlon and distance running. She dropped her professional status when her kids were younger (they’re now 15 and 10), but remains fast and competitive, having finished as the first female in the XTERRA Trail Running Championship in Oahu, Hawaii, in 2012.
Smith is a coach for LifeSport Coaching, owned and operated by her husband, Lance. Her website bio reflects not only how she coaches but the way she approaches her own goals: “I will help you find a balance between meeting your performance goals and striving for your dreams, while balancing family, career and life.”
It’s a juggling act Smith is familiar with. Her current balance is achieved by adjusting her race calendar so that it is heavy in the fall.
“I tend to race really well in the fall when I have time [while kids are in school] and energy to do the workouts,” she says. “I’ve become good at accepting that kind of schedule. It matches my priorities as a mom and a coach and where I want sports to fit in my life.”
Aside from the occasional trek to Hawaii, Smith tends to race closer to home, mixing up trail and road races and even jumping into the occasional triathlon.
Running Mama's Moral: Change the lens you use to look at potential races. Make your scope broader. Look for new opportunities that suit both you and your family.