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Run like a mother: Finding community, humor in a serious sport

Thursday - 10/10/2013, 9:07am  ET

Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea from Another Mother Runner bring together running, humor and parenthood. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
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Meeting the mother runners

WTOP's Rachel Nania


WASHINGTON - In 2007, Dimity McDowell was pregnant with her second child and needed a goal. She'd been sucked into postpartum depression with her first child and "didn't want to go there again."

So she asked her friend, Sarah Bowen Shea, to train with her for the Nike Women's Marathon. The duo completed the race, wrote about their experience in "Runner's World" magazine and decided to start a blog for mothers who run.

"We realized there was this huge, great community that hadn't really been solidified yet," McDowell says.

In the past five years, McDowell and Shea have done more than solidify a community of mother runners; they've established a brand -- Another Mother Runner -- published two books and fueled a movement of passionate women runners who come together to exercise and find comic relief in balancing parenthood with life.

"We really wanted to gather these women who run … for their own sanity and who run away from depression … and to hang out with their friends. All the different reasons we run," McDowell says.

While McDowell and Shea have met plenty of their mother runner "fans" at races all over, the two decided travel and host 12 parties across the country to kick-back with other mother runners.

Tuesday, Oct. 2 was the 10th party for McDowell and Shea, and more than 250 women met at the Washington Woods Community Center in Gaithersburg, Md., to eat, drink and talk running with their mentors.

"I love these women. Most people have celebrities. I have Sarah and Dimity," says Taryn Sneed of Fairfax, Va., who describes herself as a dedicated mom and runner. "They get it. They get running, they get moms and they get having to run. Like having to run."

Sneed especially finds McDowell and Shea's approach to running -- an often a seemingly serious and disciplined sport -- entertaining.

Passages McDowell and Shea read aloud from their most recent book, "Train Like a Mother," question the harm in having a cocktail and/or sex the night before a race.

"Before kids, both. After kids, neither. Who can stay up for that?" Shea recites to the audience.

"It's comical because it's true," Sneed says. "And that's the part that makes it amazing, you know?"

Julie Peasley, of Springfield, Va., started running last year, but was having trouble balancing a full-time job and motherhood with her new workout routine. She found McDowell and Shea's books and podcasts to be helpful.

"As soon as I found out they were coming here, I signed up," says Peasley, who came to the party with members of her local running chapter, Moms Run This Town.

For Shea, hosting the parties, which she says have "all gotten bigger and bigger as we've gone on," is a great chance to meet like-minded women.

"We can always connect with women," says Shea. "We can be in Austin, Texas or Albany, N.Y., and we all have this common love of running and then find that we have the same sense of humor, we have the same mommy guilt, we have just the same kind of outlook on life. You can strike up conversation with any woman in the room and feel like you could go on a 5-mile run with her and have a good time."

At the party, McDowell and Shea announced they are currently working on a third book, due out in spring 2015.

As for the title ...

"We want something a little more R-rated, perhaps?" Shea tells the crowd of cheering women.

"We really want ‘Bad-ass Mother Runner,'" McDowell says. "Our publishers suggested ‘Mothers Who Run,' and I was like, ‘No, that's not what we are.'"

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