My Dad’s Two Cents: Managing Your Running/Life Balance

This week, my dad shares some of his running story (including some stuff I never knew) and gives his two cents about finding the right balance between running & family life. – Sharon

My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

Do As I Say, Not As I Did

As I have said before, the information I present is based on my experimenting with how to do things. In this case, my family (wife and two daughters) were also part of the experiment, which at this point has taken almost 50 years and is still ongoing.

I started running as a sophomore in high school (in the mid-1960s). That was an era in which distance runners were encouraged to have high mileage workouts. My high school track coach, Mr. Ed Zarowin (or Mr. Z as we called him), was in my opinion an excellent coach for distance runners. He encouraged us to rack up the miles. We were rewarded with special tee-shirts when we hit select milestones (250 miles, 500 miles, and 750 miles). He also encouraged us to try to work out both before and after school. I did not go to a neighborhood high school so I had a daily one-way commute of over one hour, which made it difficult to participate in morning workouts. I went to summer school between my junior and senior years so I could have a first period study hall. I then went to the gym to work out during first period.

In college I continued trying to do twice a day workouts. My first roommate was not a runner, so I would wake him up when I got up for my morning run. After a few weeks I switched roommates so that my morning running partner became my new roommate. We ran together in the mornings for a few years. After that I ran on my own in the mornings.

After graduation I moved back home with my parents. I would go for a 45 minute or longer run every day after work. Eventually I found a new running partner. We would work out a few days each week. On those days I would get home after 9:00 p.m. I also belonged to a running club/team. We would meet one night during the week and on Sunday mornings for long (10+ miles) runs.  Mom was great about all this – she would always have dinner for me, no matter what time I got home.

My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

About 8 months after I graduated from college I met a young lady who I am now privileged to call my wife. She got off work a few hours earlier than me. She would travel from mid-town Manhattan to downtown Manhattan where I worked, so we could travel home together. Every evening I would drop her at her house and then go home for my evening run. We would also spend time together on the weekends. Sometimes she would come with me to my Saturday morning races (even if it was raining or cold). If there was no race I managed to find time to run either before or after seeing her.

I ran the Boston Marathon shortly after I met Paula. When we selected the date for our wedding, it was based on giving me sufficient time to recover after running Boston a second time (as an aside, I did not enter or run Boston that year due to work interfering with my training).

In high school I had been encouraged to run 7 days a week. The mantra was, every day you did not work out you needed two days to get back to the condition you were in before you took a day off. This 7 day a week mentality continued through college and in the beginning of my post college running career.

As you can see, my running played a very prominent part in my life and most everything and everyone else was secondary.

When we got married I tried to continue my 7 day a week running routine. I would come home from work and rush to change and go out for my daily run. On the weekends I still tried to get in a run both Saturday and Sunday. As you might imagine, my new bride, a non-runner, was not happy with me since I was ignoring her for my running.

A few paragraphs earlier I said that my Mom was great about having dinner ready for me whenever I was ready to eat. When I read that paragraph to my wife she thought that I was setting up to criticize her for not being like my Mom. Actually I have just the opposite message.  Moms sacrifice for their children, because that is what they do. It took me a long time to realize that a wife is a partner and I needed to consider her in my choices.

After a few months I realized that running both Saturday and Sunday was having a very negative impact on my family. I decided to cut back to just Sunday morning (which I thought was a big compromise on my part). Over the years we have moved many times. Depending upon the commute and work start time I have moved my runs back and forth between evenings after work and mornings before work. My intent was to minimize the delay in family dinner and avoid waking up the family earlier than needed. Through this all I continued running Monday to Friday. I only cut back to a less rigorous running schedule when my body told me it needed 36 to 48 hours recovery time between runs, not because my family needed more of my time.

My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

It took me many years to realize that I needed to reorient my priorities. My running will always be important to me (it is part of how I define myself). However family has to be more important. Family time needs to take precedence over my need to run. Right now I run primarily to maintain a level of physical fitness. I know that I could run a 5K race, but the competitor in me would not be happy with the time. So I choose not to race. In a few years, when I retire, I expect that I will have more time to devote to my training and then I will return to racing.

I expect that many of the people who are reading this are new runners. You may have just started running in the past few years. You have goals of some sort, be it a specific race time or race distance. My advice to you is to go for it. There are many training plans you can find on the internet. Try them and see what works for you. You can also seek advice from your fellow runners. At the same time remember that you are part of a greater world – family, friends, work, etc. Try to get them involved in your passion either as active participants or as part of a support team. If the support is not there, do not be discouraged or quit. However, you need to develop a compromise plan that allows you to meet your goals while still giving proper consideration to your family, etc.


Do you want my dad’s two cents on your running question? Contact him at Dad{at}MommyRunsIt{dot}com. And for more great advice and information, be sure to check out his other posts!

running in cold weatherAlbert is the proud father of Mommy Runs It’s owner Sharon Wilhelm. He has degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Florida and is also certified as a Project Management Professional. He started running as a sophomore in high school (Oct 1964), and never stopped. In high school and college he was a middle of the pack runner. He hit his peak as a runner in the first 10 years after graduating college. Though never achieving a champion performance, he ran some decent times (5K – 16:58, 5 mi – 27:07, 6 mi – 33:00, 10K – 34:58, 13.1 mi – 1:36, 20 mi – 2:20:51, marathon – 3:37:48).  Currently he runs primarily to maintain a level of physical fitness. He hopes that when he retires in a few years he will be able to increase his training and return to competitive running.  His secret (not so secret any more) ambition is to be a high school track coach; not to produce champion runners, but to instill the love of running in these young people and pass on his experience.

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About sharon

Sharon is a mom, a marathon runner, and a licensed therapist. She owns Mommy Runs It, a fitness & lifestyle blog. She is a passionate advocate of the Galloway training method and knows firsthand that everyday moms can run marathons. Connect with Sharon on Google+.


  1. Cara Gapinski says:

    I so enjoyed reading this! Thank you for sharing! I love the photo of your parents in the hallway. I have had the pleasure of meeting them, so it is no surprise how the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and you are such a delightful person, too!

  2. LOVE this post!!! Thanks Dad 😉 I hope to become a proficient enough runner that I have to worry about such balance!!!

    • Me too! I hope one day to become a proficient enough runner to be competitive about my 5K time. I’m positive he’d beat me today with no training whatsoever.

  3. Loved the story and the pics! Albert rules. :)

  4. This is so lovely! :) I adore that you and your father are so close! Thank you for sharing his story with us :)

    • Thanks! I really enjoy reading his posts too. In real life he’s a pretty quiet guy, so I’ve never heard some of this stuff. For example, I had no idea that they planned their wedding around the Boston Marathon. However, I did know that he brought his textbooks to study (he was in grad school) on their honeymoon.

  5. Albert Ugelow says:

    While I was running yesterday I thought about an alternate conclusion to this article (as well as my next article titled “Now and Then”). Be passionate about your running, but do not be obsessive (which I was and still probably am). There will be times when family and/or friends will place demands on your time that will conflict with your training plans. Try to look at the situation objectively. Will missing or shortening that one run really affect your ability to reach your goal or can you make some adjustments that will get you back on course? Some times the answer will be yes I can adjust. Other times the answer is I cannot compromise. Try to be realistic in reaching a conclusion. Also, let the others know why you cannot compromise. They may or may not understand, but at least you made an effort to consider them.

    • I’m reading this as I’m lying on the couch with a headache, which prevented me from running this evening. I thought about running even with a headache but then came to my senses and decided that missing a few miles isn’t going to hurt.

  6. Love this! Thank you for sharing!!!!

  7. I love this! My dad has been a life long runner but has never done one race. He’s amazed at why I train for so many and pay to run!

    BTW – Hello from the new tribe! 😉

    • Hi tribey friend! (I made that up. It looks weird but sounds cute in my head.) I’m probably more like your dad – I’m actually not all that into racing. I love the experience of training for a marathon. Last year, my 26 mile training run was so much more fun than the actual marathon 3 weeks later. I’d like to get more into it…we’ll see if I actually make that happen. :)

  8. Just discovered your blog from SITS girls. Love your Dad’s advice! I am the only runner in my family, so I didn’t have any examples to learn from.

    • Hi! My dad’s side of the family is actually full of runners, but I didn’t really start running (except as an occasional thing) until I was 38. I have no idea why. Can’t wait to check out your blog! xo

  9. Stopping by from the SITS Tribe :)

    Kudos to your dad for being such a great athlete for all these years! What an inspiration to have in your family!

    • Hi! His running has always been a part of our lives and of who he is…I didn’t really appreciate his achievements until I became a runner too. I’d love to be even a fraction of the athlete that he is. :)

  10. Stopping by from the SITS Tribe! :)
    Your dad is such an inspiration! As I am reading, I am sitting here thinking about how I can manage to get a run in everyday :) My dad is also a runner, and he is the sole inspiration behind my journey as a runner.

  11. Loved reading this. Great words of advice and what a wonderful example of running all through life. If we have kids, I hope to inspire them to run.

  12. This was so awesome to read. How great your dad is a life-long runner. Very inspiring and a fine balance for sure. Thanks for sharing his words of wisdom.

  13. Great advice. I’ve been a runner for 12 years, but I hope to become a life-long runner just like your dad.

  14. What a wonderful post. Great learning experience.

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