How to make running a family affair

Training for a running race can be lonely, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing is in order.

Including family in your runs can break up the solitude, and more importantly, increase your family’s overall physical activity and help boost their immune systems. (Plus, a little fresh air can do wonders for your mood.)

Here’s how to make your crew a family that runs and has fun together!

Start with a game – Convincing kids to do something new can be tough. Turning running into a game can make it more appealing and exciting, especially for younger children. Try classic recess games like “Red Light, Green Light” and “Sharks and Minnows” to get them moving. Then, move into games with longer distances. Find a local track and have each family member run a “silly” lap. For example, one family member runs or walks a lap backwards while another runs while singing or shouting out riddles. Or, try a relay race or a 100-meter dash.

Set a goal – Goals help runners stay motivated. Ask family members to identify a goal that’s within their reach and then work with them to achieve it. For example, if a family member is running a mile in 12 minutes, set a goal to run that distance in 11 minutes by the end of the month. Or, set an overall family goal to run a certain number of minutes or miles within a set timeframe. Remember to celebrate once the goal is achieved!

Make it part of your routine – Picking a specific day or time each week makes it easier for everyone in the family to commit. Most kids already do well with routines (wake-up time, homework time, shower time, etc.), which provide structure and sequence in our lives. If your family has more free time at the end of the day, try an after-dinner run. Or if weekends are more flexible, complete your run in the morning and then recover with a special family breakfast.

Manage expectations – From the start, recognize family runs aren’t “all or nothing.” If you’re ready for a long run but your family isn’t, have family members join you for the first mile. Or, have family join you for the last part of your run. They just might give you the motivation you need to finish strong!

Share your struggles – Parents are far from perfect, and it’s OK for kids to see them trying—and not always achieving—their best on runs. Planned to run three miles but only ran two? Teach your family a lesson in resilience and try again the next day (or weekend). And don’t forget to encourage each other during those tough days. Emotional and social support can actually improve athletic performance.

Remember to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. And after you run, stretch and drink plenty of water to reduce the risk of injury and stay hydrated. Happy running!


How to make the most of your virtual race

So you’ve committed to run or walk the virtual Maryland Half Marathon & 5K?

Congratulations! You now have the power to do something healthy in your own space, on your own time—and to help fund essential cancer research.

While virtual races aren’t the same as in-person events, they can still be a fun and fulfilling experience.

Here are a few ways to make the most of your race.

Plan your route

You are essentially your own race director, so you get to pick where and when you run! As long as you get your miles in, it counts. Prefer a challenge? Find a hilly area. Ready for a steadier effort? Look for flat stretches. Want to check out nature along the way? Pick a local park.

Once you’ve settled on a location, plan your route with minimal interruptions. Most runners choose one large loop, several smaller loops or an “out and back” route to get their miles. There are several free running apps that can help plan and track your distance and routes. Or, if running or walking outdoors is not possible, try a treadmill.

When running or walking on roads or trails, find a route you enjoy—and one where you are visible. Remember: Our race is virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when you’re running or walking, social distancing is a good idea. Avoid crowded areas.

Hold your water

During a virtual race, you can’t rely on water stops—at least not the organized kind. Be self sufficient and carry your own water or sports drink. Lightweight hydration packs are backpacks that can be filled with water and worn while running. You access the water pouch through a flexible drinking tube.

Another option is a waist belt, which has straps or pockets that hold small water bottles. Some belts even have pockets for smart phones or a house key.

Or, if you have family and friends nearby, ask them to staff a small water stop around your halfway point. They can even provide some quick cheers to keep you motivated. And speaking of family...

Paint a pick-me-up

While friends and family members may not be participating with you, they can support you on race day with homemade signs. Try silly messages to evoke a smile, like “If you want a ride home, run faster I am leaving soon,” “Stuck between a walk and a hard pace” and “Don’t stop, people are watching!”

Or, if motivational messages get your motor running, “Pain is temporary, finishing is forever,” “I believe in you,” and “You’re stronger than you think you are” are tried and true favorites.

finish lineThe more colorful the signs, the better!

Make your own finish line

In a virtual race, you can be the first runner to cross the finish line and break the tape! Grab some toilet paper or a birthday party-style streamer. Then, tie the ends to park benches, trees or just two sticks or poles pushed into the ground to create a finish line effect. (Friends and family members also come in handy here.)

Remember why you run or walk

By participating in the virtual Maryland Half Marathon and 5K, you are helping cancer patients across the region access groundbreaking research and clinical trials at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Each step you take and each mile you conquer has a purpose. How’s that for motivation?