Run Mummy, Run

Tamara Lopez after the Edinburgh Marathon with partner Damien and daughter Lola.

How do you return to running after having a baby? Pamela Taylor interviews Tamara Lopez to find out how she did it.

The 1949 Geneva Convention recognises sleep deprivation as a form of torture. I haven’t had more than 4 hours sleep a night in 14 weeks and 5 days. No, I’m not standing for Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher famously thrived on 4 hours sleep a night.); I’ve become a mum!

So, how do I do this and still be a runner? This is a question I didn’t think I’d find myself asking. I was never particularly sporty at school, more enthusiastic than talented. Drawn to the emerging women’s rugby scene at university, largely because nobody was any good so I fitted in (we had to forfeit our conversions because no one on the team could kick) and lapsing into a sedentary life in my twenties, I only discovered running in my early thirties. But now, the therapy of running and the Serpentine camaraderie are part of my life.

Who better to ask about being a mum and a runner than Tamara Lopez? She’s a two-time mum, to Lola (3) and Olivia (3 months), 8 times marathon finisher, London good-for-age place qualifier post-partum, and gold medal winner in the Handicap, her favourite race.

When did you start running and why?

A friend suggested doing a sprint triathlon back in 2004. I could swim and did the odd bike commute, so all I had to do was learn to run. I was out of breath by the end of the street. But after that I was hooked and built up to longer distance triathlons. I joined Serpentine in 2008 after doing the Jekyll and Hyde Duathlon. I did a few of the tri training sessions but I had no idea that there a social side to Serpies!

How could you not have known about the social side?! When did you discover it?

In 2012 I ran the Watford Half and had lunch afterwards with a group of Serpies, who became good friends. It was great to discover people who I could talk to about running and wouldn’t switch off! I also signed up to the Nice-Cannes marathon and spent the weekend with a lovely group of Serpies. Since then I’ve been a far more active member! While I run for fitness and my mental health, it is also to socialise and to eat huge amounts cake afterwards!

What motivated you to keep running during both of your pregnancies?

It’s part of who I am. I wanted to keep a sense of still being able to retain my hobbies, while pregnant and as a mum. I enjoyed the freedom of running without it being a “training session” and without looking at my watch. I found it easier to keep running during my second pregnancy. There were a lot of other Serpie ladies who were pregnant runners; we would share advice and keep each other motivated.

What motivated you to enter Edinburgh marathon less than a year after Lola was born?

I wanted to break 4 hours! I’d run 4:01 in Paris pre-pregnancy so had just missed it. I thought that I would have more time to train during maternity leave and that any pre-pregnancy niggles would be reset.

Tamara and Lola during a recent Parkrun.

What was it like crossing the finish line?

I cried. Lola was cheering me, and my watch was at 3:44! I had felt comfortable, so I was expecting to break 4 hours but not to qualify for a good-for-age place for the London marathon! I experienced so many emotions on that finish line!

So how did you do it?

I built up gradually. After the 6-week GP check-up I felt well, so I started Parkrun once a week. I’d run slowly, stopping to walk if I needed. Not everyone feels like running this soon, so I knew that it was important not to push myself. I did postnatal pilates and yoga to help me rebuild my core strength. I also got a Personal Trainer with postnatal experience – I didn’t have time to go to many training sessions and I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing. I always made time for Handicap, though! I followed a marathon training plan as if I was starting from scratch.

What did you find challenging?

Finding time to run – a running buggy was essential! There were no more walks in the park, only runs! Lola got her nap time and fresh air while I got my run done. It’s also a choice of how you want to spend your time. I chose to spend Sunday mornings doing long-distance runs, or breakfast with Serpies over a night out. I also did a lot of my runs early morning before Lola was awake, so I didn’t miss out on time with her.

Still, how do you fit in training with a baby?

Damien, my partner, is very supportive of my training schedules. For my first Mother’s Day, I did a long run with some Serpie friends and came home to a roast. What a result! We schedule our time so that we both can run without missing out on time with the girls.

What advice would you give new mums getting back into running?

Your way of walking and running changes after childbirth so it’s worth getting your running style reassessed. I changed from support running shoes to neutral.

What will motivate you to run now that you are a mum again?

I want to give the girls a good example. It doesn’t have to be running, but hopefully they will want to take part in some sport. I love starting the weekend with Parkrun. Lola has been a part of Parkrun most of her life. At 6 months old she was with us in the running buggy, and now she cycles with us while we run. She is excited about taking part in Junior Parkrun in June when she turns 4.

What will you miss when you move to Cork in Ireland?

All the friends I’ve made! Who is up for Serpie trip to Ireland?

Pamela Taylor has been a Serpentine Club member since 2010. When she is not out pounding the pavements she is hanging out with her son, Stirling.