Sometimes I feel like Old Mother Time. I find myself talking about ‘young mothers today’ and marvelling at modern pram set ups, even reminiscing about terry nappies (the original old hippy, I was green and impoverished enough in 1989, when I had my first child, to be on familiar terms with the nappy bucket, despite the ready availability, I hasten to add, of Pampers).
The reason I have so much to say about Bringing up Baby in 2016 compared to way back when is not because I am once more cast into babycare duties, despite my Marathon Gran moniker. My grandson lives in Berlin, so I don’t spend that much time changing his nappies or dandling him on my runner’s knee. It’s because my work schedule as a running coach and personal trainer includes two sessions of Buggy Running, ‘a fitness session where baby comes too.’
Many of the young parents I train are politely interested in my tales of pre-millennial child rearing, and the dearth of worthwhile activities in those unenlightened days to help p/maternity leave go with a swing.
In my day (here we go) there were playgroups in church halls, where you sat around drinking tea with fellow inmates, occasionally advising toddlers rampant to ‘share, darling,’ or the One O’clock Club in the park, very little running about on the part of the parents.
It would never have occurred to me to run with a push-chair although I remember jogging across Burgess Park to try to strike up conversation with another young woman pushing a pram on the path ahead of me. I was so desperate to make friends I was prepared to chase other mothers down.
If there had been such a thing as Buggy Running when I was a lonely young mother, roaming pitifully around the mean, as yet ungentrified, streets of Peckham, I’d have joined it like a shot.
Still, better late than ever, and at the grand old age of 53 I am meeting fellow mums on the run, talking about my baby (once removed) and his funny little ways. I also try to inspire my merry band of Buggy Runners with tales of women athletes who have come back to training post babies to find they are fitter, faster and stronger. Jo Pavey springs to mind, and, even more apposite, the Guinness World Record Breaking Buggy Runner I interviewed last year, Jessica Bruce
As any new parent knows, however, sometimes just getting outside (or even out of your pyjamas) after having a baby seems like a major achievement, so being expected to run around in trainers and Lycra would be a step too far.
So here comes Mummy Walk & Talk to bridge the gap between full-on Pavey ambitions and sitting around with the fellow NCT members eating cake. It’s an outdoor walking social group dreamed up by my friend Ellie Brown, the indomitable founder of Greenwich Fitness & Pilates ‘And who better,’ says Ellie,
‘than a woman who calls herself Marathon Gran and has signed up as a Mental Health Ambassador for England Athletics, to lead it?’
She’s persuasive, Ellie. Like me, she has struggled a bit with post-natal depression in the past, and would have welcomed, in its bleak aftermath, a chance to meet other outdoorsy people, who feel (guiltily) their wings have been clipped since having a baby.
On Thursdays, then, I stroll happily around the park with new mothers and their babies, listening to birth stories, hearing how they’re coping on reduced sleep and an imposed career break, advising about fitness post partum and generally acting as a facilitator for mothers to get to know each other.
It’s fun, but truth to tell, it makes me feel even more Babushka. One woman told me, earnestly, that she was missing her mother, who’d had to go back to Sheffield after staying for a while, so it was good to talk to me. That was sweet, although it could have been taken as less than complimentary if she’d been an older new parent. I’d have bridled a little at being replacement mum for a woman in her forties. Even Marathon Gran has her limits.
‘Oh vanity of age, untoward!
Ever spleeny, ever froward!’