Everybody now knows her as “the Super Mom”, or “the Flying Mom” or as “the fastest mom in the world”. Nonetheless, Theresa Marie Pitts, 38 years old from Kalispell, Montana, USA, is still amazed by the enthusiasm and admiration that surround her.
She is a full-time mother and homemaker, married to Ryan Pitts, who works in Emergency medicine, and mother of 8 children, from 17 years to 7 months old and maybe it is even hard for her to believe to the enterprise she did on July 9th, when she partecipated, in Missoula, Montana, to her first Marathon pushing a jogging stroller with her 3 little children: Evan (4 years old), Anders (2 years old), and Avrielle (Avi, 5 months old). And she crossed the finish line in 4:25:37, an amazing time, allowing her to set a new world record for the full marathon pushing a stroller.
A stunning result. A result obtained only two months after setting, with the same team (!), another world record during the hard Governor’s Cup half Marathon, in South Carolina. During taht race she crossed the finish line in 2:01:11. And that is not alla: Theresa Marie and her co pilots will try to defeat again this wotrld record on tha next Sunday, September 7th.
Theresa Marie’s history is exciting, thrilling, and moving. It is a very American history: from the breathtaking landscapes of Montana as background to the rhetoric of the dream that, no matter what it is, can come true for anybody.
But her history can be also an ispiration to any mom, any woman and anybody of us. To learn how to win our fears, to overcome obstacles, to dominate the fear of not succeeding, finding uncharted and unsuspected resources. Ultimately, to achieve a goal. Pursuing it with our heads and our hearts even before with the body. Until you find out that reach it wasn’t impossible.
It is this, more than anything else, the message that Theresa wants to convey. With her daily life. With its sporting achievements. And with the exceptional interview with Babyrun!
Theresa Marie, how do you feel being the fastest mom in the world? What do you feel reading your name in the Guinness World Record? How has your life changed?
I read the articles or see the story on the news and think to myself, “Wow, what a neat story! But who would be crazy enough to attempt such a thing!?” And then I realize, “Oh … That’s me. Haha!” I laugh because I think it’s funny and amazing at the same time, and still can’t believe we did it! And I say “we” because we are a team! My little team and I accomplished this together. And I could not have done this without the support of my family!
As much as I love racing, I would not say I am a competitive person; my aim is never to be better than someone else. But I am always trying to challenge and better myself. So being the “fastest” at something or holding a record is not what excites me. Being able to share my love of motherhood and my message of hope, and knowing that my story is creating so much positive energy is what puts a smile on my face. What amazes me is how far-reaching this has become. My heart is bursting with joy knowing that my story has been of inspiration to so many.
I’ve talked to reporters from all over the U.S., South America, and Europe (in person, by telephone, and via email); there have been a couple minor sponsorship offers; and strangers, especially around my hometown, have recognized me and my children from seeing us on the news; I have had one speaking engagement so far (and hope to do many more!); and I have made many new friends from all over the world! Other than that, my life has not changed much. My days are still full of the normal challenges and joys of being a mother!
How was your life before starting playing sport?
We live in a relatively small and slower-paced town near the mountains and breathtaking scenery of Kalispell, Montana, U.S.A. We have four distinct seasons. It is very beautiful and clean here. And it is a wonderful place to raise a family and play outdoors.
While I am very playful and love adventure, I also have a very reverent, spiritual side. I have always strived to focus on what is most important and eliminate all unnecessary distractions in my life. My faith and family always come first and foremost. The well-being of my children takes precedence over everything else.
Why have you started to run? As mom to 8 children, how and where have you found time, energy and motivations?
To feel well-balanced and have the strength I need as a wife and mother, I must remember I am also an individual and need to take care of myself too. In 2013, I was in a depressive slump and was searching for a healthy way to get back on track mentally, physically, and spiritually. So, I started running. It worked and is just what I needed.
I love the sport of running. I love being in nature and getting to explore and experience the beauty of the world around me on a more intimate level. I love how it quiets my mind, brings me closer to nature and God, and for the healthy and natural release of stress it gives me. I love the sense of growth and accomplishment I feel after I’ve worked hard and have succeeded in achieving my goals. And I love the individuality of the sport, but also the sense of camaraderie and support I feel from the running community as we share this common interest.
Next step: stroller running. When have you started and why?
I started bringing my children along with me on my runs because I saw how much they loved our rides together, it was easier than having to try to find a babysitter, and I knew they would also benefit from being out in nature and breathing the fresh air.
I get the greatest reactions! People are always surprised and always have positive and encouraging words to say when they see me zoom by with my triple stroller. I often hear comments such as, “Go mama!” “Impressive!” “You’re an inspiration” “Now THAT’S a workout!” “You are amazing!” I’ve also heard many say, “Well, now I have no excuses!” That has become my recent motto, and the attitude I hope to instill upon my children: “No excuses, I can do hard things!” Likewise, I always give my fellow stroller-pushers big cheers and encourage them to keep it up!
There is nothing in this world that brings more joy to my heart than being a mother. I love being a mother. And I love running. So being able to combine the two is the greatest blessing!
Tell us about a usual training run with your stroller and your children.
To me, the only thing that makes a good run better is being able to bring my children along with me! So, unless it is too cold or the little ones aren’t up for a stroller run, I train with my children. I’ve run many more miles while pushing a stroller than without!
It does take patience and commitment to include the children on the runs because it can sometimes take up to an hour to get out the door as I get everyone clean, dressed and happy, baby fed, drinks and snacks stocked, toys on hand (such as fidget spinners and baby rattles. I included playdough, bubbles, and coloring books for the full marathon), and ready to go on our rides together. My little one’s love to get out of the stroller and run alongside me, which I let them do near the end of our runs together. Sometimes my older ones will ride alongside us on their bicycles so we have this huge caravan of children stretched out along the path. It is beautiful.
And from a technical point of view? What about your running sessions with the stroller?
On my runs, I average anywhere from 4 to 13.5 miles, but I never push the children beyond that. When my 4-year-old starts saying, “Mom, this sidewalk is really long,” that’s my cue that it’s probably time to turn around and head home, lol. We laugh and chat and enjoy each other’s company. We often stop by one of our nearby parks to play (cross-training 😉 ). We have such an enjoyable time together!
I like to train by feel rather than a rigid schedule or training plan with little or no flexibility. If I feel like running a little farther and faster I do. If the kids really don’t feel like going out on a run I call it a rest day. I still incorporate elements of a good training program, such as tempo runs, long runs, speed and hill workouts, and strength training (often using my children as extra weight and resistance!).
When have the passion turned into challenge and competition?
I had been wanting to tackle the marathon for a while, but I was always pregnant, or nursing, or not in the greatest shape. So I finally told myself, “No more excuses, I’m doing this,” and got to work. I stopped letting excuses and fear of failure hold me back, and started taking the necessary steps (literally) I needed in order to prepare for the marathon. I found the only way I could train on a consistent basis is if I brought my children along with me, so that’s what I did!
As I continued to train I increased in strength, stamina, and speed. On a previous occasion I had pushed my youngest boys through a 5k in a double stroller and had such a wonderful time. I thought about how much fun it would be to bring them along with me on my first marathon ever, especially since they had been with me during my entire running journey. It would be an adventure! And I loved the symbolic nature of the challenge as I would be traveling over all those miles, and then crossing the finish line, together, with my children.
As I’ve shared with other reporters, “I train with my children, they’ve been with me over the rocky paths and the smooth; during the up hills and down hills, so when I decided that I wanted to take on the marathon challenge I asked myself, ‘How could I leave them out at the culmination of my efforts?’ I want them there with me when I cross the finish line too!”
Someone mentioned that I could set a record with my unique abilities. I also saw in the news that a woman had beat the record for the fastest half-marathon while pushing a stroller with one baby. So I thought, “Why not three babies!?” And that’s where the idea to compete for the Guinness world record began!
Before the Missoula Marathon, you established a record for the half marathon. Was this the input to prompt you to defeat the marathon record?
My goal from the beginning was to run the full marathon, so I built the half marathon into my training plan as a preparatory step. As part of the preparation I also taught my breast-fed baby how to drink from a bottle so she could eat during the race, and adjusted my children’s sleep schedule so they would sleep during the time I would be racing. And it worked!
The Governor’s Cup half-marathon was a hilly course with several miles being dirt or gravel road, which made this race especially difficult given the fact that I was pushing nearly 150 lbs. of stroller, babies, and supplies over all those miles.
Still, with family, friends, and spectators jubilantly cheering us on, I crossed the finish line in 2:01:11, beating the previous record. This record has been made official and I am the current world record holder! The time I got was very encouraging as it showed me that I had a chance at beating the qualifying mark to set a new world record for the full marathon, which was set at 4:30:00.
And now the day of the race that will remain in the history: how did you live it?
Just as I had done during training, I stocked the stroller full of food, drinks, baby bottles and pacifiers, various toys to entertain the kids, and diapers. My children and I talked a lot about what they would see and experience leading up to what they called “The Big Race”, so there were no surprises on race day and they were very relaxed and comfortable with the situation.
This was my first full marathon. I had no idea what to expect. There were so many variables out of my control and things that could go wrong, but I chose to stay positive and focus on all that could go right.
I was just going to get out there and try my very best and have fun with the adventure ahead. I looked at it as if I was simply touring the countryside with my children on a beautiful summer morning. I figured it was better than sitting at home watching YouTube videos 😉 .
Besides close friends and family, there were so many people who were cheering me and my little team on. All along the course fellow racers, volunteers, spectators, and course organizers were very supportive and offered many words of encouragement.
Everyone got a kick out of my little copilots. After the race, it was fun to learn that there were a multitude of fans who had been tracking my course progress via Competitive Timing’s racing app. All the cheers, high-fives, encouraging words, and positive support we received was overwhelming; I felt very loved.
My fueling and racing strategy was working out just as I had planned, and everything was going well as I ran along the scenic course and ticked off the miles. I stopped once at around mile 6 to buckle my 2-year-old little monkey back in, and then at around mile 8 to burp and cuddle my 5-month-old daughter. After that all three children dozed off and stayed asleep until the very end of the ride.
The difficulty of the challenge began to manifest itself at around mile 16 when fatigue set in. And then I hit a wall around mile 20. I noticed the 4:30 pacers pass me and thought, “Oh no, you’ve got to dig deep here cause they’re passing you up!” Somehow, I tapped into an extra reserve tank that I never knew I had and continue to press forward.
I saw a fellow runner who also began to struggle in the last miles of the race, and was fighting hard to finish under 4:30 just as I was. So I said, “C’mon. Stay with me. We’ll help each other.” The more I encouraged him and helped pull him along, the more strength I felt within myself.
I was not focused on the time at this point but simply trying to keep going as strong as I could, so when I rounded the corner on the finishing stretch and saw my time I couldn’t believe it. I was filled with emotions of excitement, relief, joy, and disbelief as I crossed the finish in an official time of 4:25:37 and gave my three little one’s big hugs and kisses as medals were placed around our necks.
Body, heart, mind: which of these three factors is predominant in setting a goal and being able to reach it?
The record is neat. But those who are close to me know my heart and know I want to do good with the gifts given me. My ultimate endeavor is to be able to share what I’ve learned about overcoming adversity, achieving and maintaining whole-health and happiness, triumphing over our demons, and turning our weaknesses into our very strengths.
Whatever your goal is, start your path in simple ways. Assess where you’re at and then do a little bit more. Just do a little bit more today than you did yesterday. The biggest goals are met after many small and simple steps.
Anticipate roadblocks. Don’t let them stop you. Climb over them, around them, under them, or break right through them. And keep moving forward. They are part of the journey and challenge, and ultimately make us stronger.
Just as we must exercise to develop muscular strength we must work to develop our mental strength. It doesn’t come for free. It takes time and effort and practice. We do this by stepping out of our comfort zone. And by doing things that stretch us, and maybe even scare us a little bit.
Whether we are faced with mental, physical, or spiritual challenges I believe we can overcome each obstacle and reach our fullest potential as we set goals for ourselves, and then start moving towards these goals one step at a time.
When we have come to a point where we think we have reached our limit and can’t do any more, we’ve only accomplished a fraction of what we are truly capable of doing.
So, stretch yourself and keep on reaching!
Babyrun is our mean to promote stroller running in Italy. Which kind of message are you sending to your children and to parents in general?
Running while pushing a stroller uses different body mechanics than running solo, and it can feel more difficult, especially at first. But, as it is with anything, the more we practice the more natural it feels and the easier it gets.
An obvious plus side is the quality time we are spending with our children when we take them out on stroller runs. It is showing them a pattern of healthy and happy living as we exercise our bodies and cruise through nature together in the fresh air and open outdoors. I like to say, “My family bonds and it makes me strong!”
I ran these races in celebration of life and motherhood; and to set an example for my children of both physical and mental resilience. It’s a joy knowing that my story has not only made an impact on my own children’s lives, but has been of hope and inspiration to so many others, and encouraging people to get out there and create an awesome ending to their own stories.
You told us that you’d like, one day, to participate to Babyrun Stroller Race! We take you by your word! In the meanwhile, would you like to greet Babyrun readers and all the people that run with a stroller in Italy?
Haha! I truly would love the experience. We have a lot of mouths to feed so we would not be able to afford the cost of this on our own. But, hey, if Babyrun is willing to fly me and my little copilots out, we will be there 😉 !!!