Ben and Sam (pictured at 4 months and 3.5 yrs) on a jog with mom, who is doing something funny, and I can’t remember now what it was!

Pushing a baby in a stroller can be daunting, from figuring out how to keep baby and preschooler amused, fed, hydrated, and happy while you’re out to having enough energy to get back home again! Over the past three years, I’ve run about 3000 miles with Sam in all kinds of weather, from the wet, cold Northwest winter to the heat of August in Hawaii. Now there’s three of us since baby Ben was born in May. I wondered how the transition would go and thankfully it’s more fun than ever, but harder to push against those windward coast headwinds! Here are some things I seem to stick to through it all. I hope these tips are helpful!

Bring a couple books or toys, but keep it simple. I have a three-strikes rule for the car or stroller – if you throw it out or down three times, you’re done. Basically, nothing is going to make the child happy at this point. Have a chat with your child, figure out if there’s anything else he or she truly needs (food, water, diaper change), and if not just continue on.

Have a good rain cover handy – they’re lightweight and come in very handy in unexpected downpours! We’ve run through hail coming down sideways in WA after starting out with sunny skies. You just never know…and runners hate to cut the route short!

Always remember to put sunscreen on those little legs and arms, and wear sunglasses. I am often asked how I “got” Sam to keep his hat and sunnies on. The first time I put his sunnies on when he was about 6 months old, he resisted, very vehemently. We had a firm talk – I told him that he WILL wear them and that mommy has some non-negotiables. Not many, but some, for his health and safety. We have never since had a problem and now he puts them on himself. (Ben is proving more difficult to convince…but we are persisting!)

At your turn-around or halfway point, get your child out to participate in the run with you. Sam worked on his walking down a shady lane on our route in WA, and now he works on his own running up and down the dunes in Kailua Beach Park. We draw starting lines and race each other downhill (he’s a speed junkie). I do pushups, situps and play while he stretches his legs. Now that he’s a big boy, he actually jogs alongside the stroller for a mile or so. Sometimes he refuses to get back in the stroller! (Be careful – your kid may overdo it before you know it. It’s happened to us – Sam started acting a bit crazy (saying strange things and acting rather emotional) until we got him fed and hydrated.) Your child will enjoy doing what you do, and will feel like a full participant. Don’t worry about how those breaks will affect your training – you are making up for it by pushing! In all seriousness, for those of you who are super competitive I have placed well in 10K races against runners who aren’t pushing a stroller, and this is my “training plan.”

Keep a spare diaper, wipes, and emergency supply of Cheerios on hand. That said, I try not to use food as entertainment. I would rather talk to Sam, listen to what he’s saying, and point out signs, letters, colors, flowers, etc. I have found you can even read books through the little viewing “window” in the sunshade! (But tricky to watch where you’re going at the same time!)

For hydration, we use the Platypus reservoir you’ll find in our Gear Up! section. It prevents water cups from being thrown into the road. I also like to have music on board that we both listen to. Check out the awesome travel speakers in the gear section – the battery-powered speakers plug into your MP3 player and fit in the “parent” tray of most strollers. Keep a plastic ZipLok bag around to protect it and your cell phone from unexpected moisture if you get rained on (lesson learned!).

Running on O’ahu with a biking companion
Once Sam hit 4 years old, he started riding without training wheels, and his speed really picked up. Within about 3 months his steering and interest were sufficient to start pushing a single stroller with Ben aboard while Sam biked alongside. We’ve really had a great time checking out suitable bike/run trails that are safe for kids. Here are a couple suggestions, with approximate mileage. It probably goes without saying, but in addition to your usual supplies I would advise always having a spare tire tube, tools, and pump (some trails are sort-of off-road and I have popped many a tire!).

Ala Moana Beach Park (2 mi loop) – there is a paved and fairly wide (for the most part) bike path that goes through the park. If you park your car by Magic Island, you could stash the bike and take a dip in the calm waters after your run. That puts total mileage right around 2 miles, maybe a little over. This is a busy park, so when you cross streets together, have the biker get off and walk. Good shade most of the time and I think I saw water fountains along the way. If you go in the morning you can get some sprinkler spray, too! Good eating is just across the street. There are bathrooms available in several places.

Pearl Harbor-to-Pearl City bike path (3.75 mi one way) – this will be a tricky one to describe, but if you can find the marina by the Arizona Memorial, there’s a bike path that heads Ewa from there and goes all the way to Pearl City Peninsula Housing. I’m told total mileage is 3.75. I have not explored the whole route yet, but the portion from Pearl City to Blaisdell Park is about a mile and it was nice, including interesting things to look at (HECO power plant). No shade and no water. Bathrooms at Blaisdell Park (I think!).

Bellows AFS (5K loop) – The route goes through ironwoods (on somewhat sandy soil), down an old runway, and back along a bike path past the cabins. This is a very safe place to run and bike with kids due to relatively light traffic going slowly. You can buy lunch at Subway or Keneke’s, and there’s a coffee shop, too! About half shaded. No water on the course.

Maunawili Ditch Trail (5K out-and-back) – This trail starts off with a gradual 0.25 mile uphill then levels out to a fairly wide, level trail. With a few exceptions, this trail is appropriate for a child who has been biking for about a year and comfortable with a few bumps. There is more challenging terrain that the child can grow into handling (small stream crossing, a few roots, short downhills) but these are easily handled by walking until the child is comfortable with the challenge. Horses frequently use this trail, as do mountain bikers. Be prepared to be chased by lots of mosquitoes, even when the trail is dry. Due to its proximity to the Ko’olaus, this trail will be wet (i.e., very slick) much of the winter months. (Take Kumuhau to a right on Waikupanha; pass Mahiku Pl and you will see sign and trailhead parking on the right. At 0.25 mi you will see a trail junction – bear right to stay on the Ditch trail; going straight will take you 10 miles to the Pali end of the Maunawili Demonstration trail.)

Kailua Beach Park (1.5 mi loop or 4 mi loop) – If you start down at the Kalapawai end and work your way all the way around the park via the boat ramp parking lot, it’ll be roughly 1.5 miles total. It’s about half shaded, bathrooms along the way, possibly water, too (can’t remember – we always have water on board). I usually park at the Kalapawai end and run/bike all the way around the Lanikai loop bike path for a total of about 4 miles. Note: A preschooler would really need to walk the bike down the hill into Lanikai because it is steep, an older and much more experienced biker could handle it easily. There are a couple other hills in Laniakai, but Sam is competent on those with a careful eye and reminders to brake. Cars should be going slowly but they tend to speed. Therefore, I would rate this as a more advanced course. Some shade, no bathrooms in Lanikai.

MCBH Kaneohe fish ponds loop (4.7 mi) – If you park at the super-playground, run back toward the main gate, take a left at the light by Kahuna’s, then cross the road and head down a trail just to the right of the little bridge by the fish ponds, you’ll see a wide dirt trail which then turns into bark. Go left across the bridge and continue through the fish ponds and all the way around the gravel trail until you reach the back gate. Continue on up Mokapu Rd until you return to the playground to complete the loop. There are variations you may wish to tailor to your own needs (such as parking across from the annex and cutting some distance off the loop). This is a pretty good, safe course although traffic can be heavy around lunchtime so the biker needs to take care to steer straight and stay in his or her “lane” alongside you. No shade to speak of and no water. Be prepared before you head all the way around the fish ponds.

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