To honour Mother’s Day, this year we bring you three stories of running moms who are each very passionate about both running and mothering.
Krista DuChene, 41, of Strathroy, Ont. is a professional runner and a (mostly) stay-at-home mom to her three kids ages 12, 10 and seven. Her recent third-place finish at the Boston Marathon has made her name instantly recognizable, not just to runners who follow the scene, but to most Canadians.
Successfully combining family life with her professional career as a runner has been DuChene’s number-one priority since her first child was born. When asked if she ever felt conflicted, her response was “No, because I decided early on to enjoy running and not feel guilty about it. So when I’m doing a training run, I’m completely focussed on that, and when I’m at home, I’m wearing the “mom” hat.” And sports are a big part of her family life, with the kids being involved in hockey (which DuChene coaches) and swimming.
DuChene has occasionally brought her family to big races, such as the 2016 Olympics in Rio, though mom stayed in the athletes’ village until after the marathon. But usually she’s on her own, and it’s like a business trip. “When I get home, the kids want to know what souvenirs are in my suitcase, more than how well I did,” she laughs.
As for her own mother, DuChene says that she and her dad were both very supportive of her running and hockey, without pushing her. The moms who inspired her the most were two she befriended at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Sue Spence and Ginger Hurlburt, who were also both athletes and great moms. “Before I had kids, I looked up to them, because I saw that they could be active moms while raising a young family. They each had four kids!”
Hilary Stellingwerff is a two-time Olympian, a coach for the University of Victoria Vikes and a mother to two sons. Now based in Victoria, where she lives with her husband, sport physiologist Trent Stellingwerff, the Sarnia, Ont. native had an impressive and lengthy professional track career, making 10 national teams and winning two national titles in the 1,500m.
— Hilary Stellingwerff (@hstellingwerff) April 17, 2018
Stellingwerff had her first son, Theo, in 2014. While pregnant with him, she reached out to other running mothers who had already gone through what she was about to experience, including Krista DuChene and US Olympian Kara Goucher, both of whom helped her to prepare for elite running post-pregnancy. “The most important lesson I took from them was how personal pregnancy is,’ she says. “I learned I couldn’t just follow what other women did–I had to find my own way back into running.” Following her instincts worked well, evidently. Stellingwerff made her second Olympic team less than two years after giving birth.
Stellingwerff started volunteer coaching in 2013 after the London Olympics. She transitioned into a position as an assistant coach in 2016 after the Rio Olympics, when she officially retired from professional track and field. She says that being a mother informed how she coaches today. “I’ve become a lot more patient,” she says. “Being an elite athlete, you have to be pretty selfish and callous. Working with university athletes, you can forget how much they are balancing. Transitioning from an elite athlete to coaching university level runners, I didn’t have as much patience, but now as a mother, I have a lot more sympathy for the rigour that students-athletes feel.”
She says one of the most important lessons she has learned through being a mother is the ability to compartmentalize. “Whether you’re with your baby, or at your job, or on your run, remember to be where you are.”
Amy Ballon, 46, of Toronto is a runner, entrepreneur, and mom to three girls ages 15, 12 and 10. Her relationship with running is uniquely and intimately linked to her relationship with her own mom, also a runner, who died of cancer in 2001.
“Back in the mid 1990’s, my mom decided to run the New York marathon for her 50th birthday,” Ballon explains. “I was living in the US at the time and took the train to New York to watch her race. I was hooked!”
Ballon had never run before, but she started learning to run, and was soon training for marathons–with her mom. Together they ran marathons in Toronto, Chicago, Washington, and finally Boston, just before her mom became too ill to run.
After her mother died, Ballon took a long hiatus from running, during which she had her children and built a business. Then a friend encouraged her to join her track club, the UTTC Masters, even though she had never run on a track. “It was a new way to love a sport I already loved,” she says, “and getting back into running made me a happier, saner, more grounded parent.” She recalls that getting to workouts was a challenge, since, with a husband who worked long hours, it meant hiring a babysitter.
But as the kids got older, getting to her workouts became easier, and Ballon’s eldest has recently taken up running herself. In a kind of closing of the circle, they plan to run Toronto’s Sporting Life 10K together on Sunday, and Ballon can’t wait. “For me it’s the perfect way to spend Mother’s Day.”