Balancing work and family can seem like running a marathon some days. For most moms, September means shopping for last-minute school supplies, the start of the endless amount of school papers that seem to stream in every Friday and the delicate dance of trying to convince your kids to do their homework without sounding like a nag. But for these four Bergen County moms, September means the start of road racing season.
It's 4:30 a.m. and Lauren Di Marco wakes to eat something before her training run. She laces up her Asics and steps out into the darkness, headphones on. With 10 miles of road ahead, her thoughts are on what needs to be done when she gets back home. This Wyckoff mother-of-two will be back before her husband and children wake, but there is breakfast to cook, lunches to make and school backpacks to prepare. But, Di Marco wouldn't have it any other way. "My fall weekends are dedicated to the soccer field with my kids and to training," she says.
Di Marco balances a part-time job in marketing with a full-time job as a mom, but always makes time for her passion for running. She runs in 10Ks, half marathons and even tried a Tough Mudder this year. In 2010, she ran her first marathon and was hooked. "Finishing the marathon was the best feeling I have ever had, aside from getting married and having kids. It's definitely in my Top 5," she says. "There is nothing like crossing that finish line."
And, as she crosses the finish line, it is her family who is there to cheer her success. Di Marco's husband supports her passion every step of the way – he even drives with her at night to drop water along her course so that she will stay hydrated on long runs. "He says, 'I can't believe you are running this far. I can't even drive this far!'" she laughs.
Passion aside, finding time for training while balancing motherhood and work can be a challenge. But if the motivation is there, the balance is possible – and the payoff is priceless.
For Wyckoff mom Gail Frazer Taliercio, the motivation to start running came in 2007 when a high-cholesterol diagnosis pointed toward a lifetime of managing medications. Taliercio started running, and her cholesterol level dropped 50 points. "I want to live a longer life," she says. "I want to be here for my daughter and be a good role model for her."
And it's working. Taliercio's daughter, an active 8-year-old, already runs a solid 5K and, running alongside her mom two years ago, was the youngest finisher of Wyckoff's 5K WEF Run.
Like Di Marco, Taliercio has found that the secret to making it all work is finding support. For her, support comes in the form of other working moms who make running a priority. Taliercio trained for the 2010 ING NYC Marathon with her three running partners, who she refers to as her "therapy group."
"We pick a topic of the day and we talk," Taliercio says. "I love it because they are all so brutally honest – we run, talk, give feedback, get that endorphin thing going. They are the grounding force to get through the long runs."
Since all four women are working moms, they send meeting requests through Microsoft Outlook for their training runs.
Mahwah mom Chris Doran runs alone, but her motivating force is her "student" supporters. When Doran, a group exercise instructor and personal trainer, had an excruciatingly difficult run in the Pittsburgh marathon, she found the strength to finish by focusing on her trainees and exercise class students. "I had a flawless training but fell apart during the race – it was too hot, my knees hurt," she says. "I just kept thinking of [my students] and how I couldn't go back to them and tell them that I didn't finish. They work so hard for me, and I want to inspire them."
Doran, who has run four mara- thons since 2008, balances work, three kids and running by being creative with her training. "I was training for a marathon when my daughter was playing softball in Oakland," she says. "So, I mapped out 12 miles and ran from Mahwah to her game. I killed two birds with one stone."
Kelly Suh, also from Mahwah, has less opportunity for flexibility but always makes time for running. With a full-time job at JP Morgan that starts at 7 a.m., Suh typically gets her training runs in at 4 a.m. to fit her busy schedule. Staying organized and setting goals is Suh's secret to managing work, parenting and her commitment to running.
The challenge for Suh has always been finding balance. "It's hard to be a good wife, a good mother and a good employee all on the same day," Suh says. "You have to cut yourself some slack." Suh ascribes that motto to her running regimen, as well. "Some runs won't be your best ever, but in the end you've done it, accomplished your goal."
Suh, a nationally ranked fencer in high school, draws her inspiration from her two grandmothers, who stayed fit by walking and swimming well into their later years. "They provided great examples for me to follow," she says. "They knew that fitness was important for balance in their lives."
Though the balancing act can be tricky at times, all four working moms are committed to making running a part of their busy lives. And when those long training runs require a 4 a.m. wake up call, it is the commitment to their goals and being a role model for their children that gets them out of bed. "It's about setting goals for yourself and sticking to them," Suh says. "That's what makes finding the balance possible."
Tips on Finding Time to Run
1. Wake up early. Nothing is more invigorating than getting your endorphins pumping first thing in the morning.
2. Take lunch on the run. It is possible to get in a run and a shower on your lunch hour if you work close to home or your office has a gym.
3. Buy a treadmill. You can run when your little ones are napping or when your older ones are doing homework.
4. Run at the game. When you drop your kids at their sporting events after work, take some laps around the perimeter fields and take advantage of the free time.
5. Run with friends. Rather than meeting your friends at the coffee shop, why not schedule a run together. You can burn off calories instead of adding them.
— Aidan Walsh, Racefaster Coaching and Running Coach of North Jersey Masters Track & Field
Where to Train
North Jersey Masters Track And Field Club
Glen Rock Triathlon Club