In the world of road racing, this is not what they mean by “water stop.”
Karen Dolge of Valatie was pregnant with her daughter, Abigail, in 2004, yet still trained right up to when her water broke, at which point she put her running on hold.
Then she did the same in 2006 leading up to the birth of her son, Wyatt.
Five years later, the 41-year-old Dolge ran a 3:13:45 to finish 42nd in the 40-44 age group at the Boston Marathon, and she ran a 3:12:16 at the Scranton Steamtown Marathon last month.
Undaunted by the rigors of motherhood, she has been able to maintain not only a running schedule, but one that keeps her fit and fast enough to put her in the top level of race results.
She’s not alone.
Women are increasingly making up race fields. As of last week, 55 percent of the 1,100 online entries for the 36th annual Gazette Stockade-athon were women, a significant swing from a few decades ago, when it was 15-20 percent.
These women are not all fresh out of college and able to train without the time constraints of family obligations.
Judging from a cross section of running moms who are entered in Sunday’s Stockade-athon, there’s a preponderence of evidence that women can absorb the physical
demands of having and raising kids, and still thrive in a competitive setting.
“Running just makes the rest of your life better,” said 32-year-old Shelly Binsfeld of Clifton Park, a mother of four who won her age group at the Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon last month. “Some people think it takes so much away from your day, but it actually turns around and gives me energy for my kids.”
“I did what I could, when I could,” said Renee Tolan, a 37-year-old mother of two who lives in Clifton Park. “I love to run and wanted more, but I had two little kids. I was working. How was I going to fit it in?
“I made almost a New Year’s resolution. I can have goals, or I can have excuses. I missed racing.”
She missed it so much that she signed up for the Oct. 9 MHR Half the day registration opened last winter.
The former Galway High School and Siena College runner, who teaches social studies at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, started a training program in January that was occasionally supplemented this summer by pushing daughters Sydney, 4, and Addison, 2, in a double stroller.
Her regimen leaned toward the conservative side to prevent injuries, and she used some shorter races to build toward the MHR Half, including a sixth place at the Team Workforce Challenge in the spring and an 18:27 at a 5k this summer.
“After two pregnancies, my body was different,” Tolan said. “I was very smart about it. I took care of myself, because I didn’t want the setback of an injury.”
Tolan finished second in the MHR Half in 1:23:13, a few minutes faster than her target time.
When she came home, her husband and daughters greeted her with congratulatory flowers, balloons and streamers.
“I felt awesome,” she said. “I have to say I was very nervous. I put a lot of expectation on that race, because that was my comeback. At no point did I feel bad. When I finished, all I could think was, ‘I rocked that.’
“It was a family effort, and it is a family effort to fit it all in.”
That’s a common theme among running moms, especially since most of them hold down jobs, too.
Anne Benson, 46, of Clifton Park has the “luxury,” she said, of a more flexible running schedule now that her kids, Robbie (15), Katie (14) and David (12), are getting into their teens.
She just started working fulltime, though, and expects that that will have an impact on her training, which in the last five years has allowed Benson to become an important contributor at masters team races all over the country for the Willow Street AC.
A regular at the Stockade-athon, she was the ninth woman overall last year in 59:35.7, two years after having run an almost identical time, and was the third female masters finisher in 2009.
“I might not be in as good of shape as I was, but that’s OK, because I have a different role now [because of the job],” she said.
Besides raising three children, Robby (11), Anna (9) and Olivia (6), with her husband, Pete, 44-year-old Judy Guzzo of Niskayuna works as a software sciences project leader for General Electric Global Research and is a co-captain of the GE team that races in the Team Workforce Challenge.
That can be a part-time organizational job by itself, since GE usually has about 250 runners.
Guzzo finished second in the 2006 Workforce Challenge, seventh this year and was third in the 40-44 age group at the 2009 Stockade-athon.
“I just love to run, it’s a good outlet, and my husband also runs, so he’s very supportive,” she said. “In general, the running takes kind of a backseat, especially as the kids get older and are doing more things. Family comes first; running comes second.”
That doesn’t mean it has to be strictly a pursuit of fitness and good health, with no firm, ambitious racing goals, as Tolan discovered.
Kristina Gracey, 28, of Albany, took a one-year hiatus from medical school to have her daughter, Amelia, who was born last year.
A former high school and college distance runner from Connecticut, she was able to regain her marathon form this year and was second in the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in a personal-record 2:56:34 that was actually a little slower than she’d hoped to run.
“By virtue of taking the time off, we got out a bit for stroller runs, and she was really happy in the stroller,” Gracey said.
“I do my training runs either very early or very late. If I have to be at Albany Med by 6, I’m up at 4 and do as many miles as I can, or after she goes to bed, I’m on the treadmill again.”
Dolge, a media planner and buyer for Eric Mower Associates’ Albany branch, faces the same time dilemma, which is compounded by the fact that she’s a marathoner and needs even more time to put into her weekly mileage.
“It’s really tough,” she said. “I either have to get out at 5 in the morning or 8 at night or lunch,” she said. “I do a combination of those and have a very understanding husband. On weekends, I’m able to do my longer runs.”
The rewards are profound and invaluable, even without the fast times and age-group medals.
“I’m a lot stronger and healthier with my body,” said Binsfeld, a former high school and college runner who took off eight years from the sport to have sons Samuel (9), Matthew (7) and Reid (5) and daughter Selah (3). “A big part of it is nutrition. When you’re bringing up a child, you’re more aware of what you’re eating. When you’re younger, you can get away with it.”
“I think the running actually keeps me balanced,” Gracey said. “It helps me focus while I’m at the hospital, and it helps me feel fit all the time, and I get to reconnect with all my friends in the running community.”
“It makes the early mornings and weekends cramming in a long run — between family and work — all worth it,” Tolan said. “You’ve got to find that balance. I love my family; I love my work; I love to run. You have to make it work.”
“They’re the best spectators you could ask for,” Dolge said.