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Finding balance between motherhood and running

How these Canadian moms use running to maintain their sense of self and set an example for their kids

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful women who support us. Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, Lynn Kanuka and Natalie Schreiber all come from different running backgrounds, but they have two things in common–they’re all moms, and for them, their daily runs have always been important in helping them be the best mothers they can be. 

Schreiber racing with her twins in the stroller

For these women, running is a way of life, and the ability to share that activity with their kids has been a joy. Bishop-Nriagu, Kanuka and Schreiber all lead different lives, but how and why they fit runs into their schedules are very similar. Here’s how these women get it done, and why they believe it’s so important.

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Family runs are key

While running is an activity that these women do for themselves, each described the running stroller as an important tool for running while mothering. Bishop-Nriagu is a world championship silver medallist, current Canadian 800m record-holder and mom to 18-month-old daughter Corinne. Parenting and trying to make her third Olympic team is tough enough, but doing it all through a pandemic is a new ball game. The family run is key for Bishop-Nriagu. “Osi [her husband] does shift work. But when Osi isn’t working, we all go for a run together around 10 a.m., and if I have a workout they’ll keep me company. When we’re both back, one of us heads to the weight room while the other plays with Corinne.”

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Schreiber, who is an ultrarunner and member of the Canadian 24-hour World Championship team, echoes Bishop-Nriagu’s statement. “The stroller nap was key to training survival and getting two small babies to sleep simultaneously.” The Edmonton-based ultrarunner had twin girls in 2018. She also works a full-time job as a physical therapist on top of her running commitments, so getting two things done at once is a necessity.

Running makes me a better mom

Kanuka is the former Canadian 1,500m record-holder and mother of four, and she has been coaching for years (she currently coaches Canadian 10,000m record-holder Natasha Wodak). She says she had to get creative to fit in work, motherhood and running, but she managed.

“Man, those years were crazy,” she says. “It got complicated as I had more kids. I started to run early in the morning or I’d take them to a park and let them play while I ran around. I wasn’t trying to be competitive any more, I was just trying to stay fit. At practice when I was coaching, I’d have four kids, a dog, bottles, cheerios–it was a zoo.” There did come a time, however, when Kanuka’s job was clashing with her ability to parent.

“It was pouring rain and I remember leaving my kids in the car to go and get a warmup started. I was coaching at my eldest’s school and at the club in the evenings. In that moment I felt like I wasn’t being a good coach or mother. I took a hiatus of four or five years and made a decision not to coach at the club level.” Even though the runner took a step back, she never gave up her passion.

“I remember feeling invincible when I was pushing my first born around in a baby jogger. It made me feel strong. Running and coaching allowed me to tap into who I am as a person and let my kids know I was a person, too. My kids, to this day, know that quality time with me involves activity of some sort.”

Schreiber and her family

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Making your passion a priority teaches your kids an invaluable lesson

Bishop-Nriagu, Kanuka and Schreiber all say they feel that, ultimately, their children seeing their mothers succeed at something they’re passionate about is an invaluable lesson. For Kanuka, her kids got to watch her coach athletes to Olympic Games, and for Bishop-Nriagu and Schreiber, their daughters get to see their moms compete against the best in the world–and one day they’ll look back and remember being part of the training process (Corinne already understands the command “On your mark, set, go”).

While each woman’s schedule is undeniably packed, their run is non-negotiable. Instead of viewing that as a selfish act, they each say they feel like these few minutes of time for themselves allow them to give more to those they care for. Kanuka says running and coaching while parenting was all about maintaining a sense of self.

“That part is key,” she says. “We’re mothers, but we’re also people. And it’s so beneficial for our kids to see us working hard at the thing we’re passionate about.” Here’s to mothers who make their passion a priority.