Running along the Brisbane River

Running along the Brisbane River

Mad dogs, Englishmen and Team Z – what do we have in common? The noon-day sun, apparently. Lil Z and I have managed to get out for two good runs this weekend and both were at mid-day. This doesn’t bother Lil Z – in fact she is usually bundled up since she seems to get quite chilly during our runs. As for me, well, in London and Michigan I never minded running when it was hot outside, but Brisbane is a whole different level of hot, even now in the autumn. I’ve noticed that by the end of our runs my face has turned shades of red that I’ve never seen before. It also takes me so long to cool down and become a normal shade again that I often have a moment of “oh no, what if I stay this way!” panic.

Some of the motivation to get out running regularly has been the registration of Team Z in the Mothers’ Day Classic (8km) on 12 May and the Gold Coast Half Marathon on 7 July (although not sure yet if Lil Z will do the Gold Coast with me). If all goes well, I’m also hoping we will run the Brisbane Running Festival 10km in August and the Bridge to Brisbane 10km in September. I’ll be very proud of us if we achieve all that!

And some of the motivation is that I’ve bought a proper running stroller. A Baby Jogger Performance to be exact. It’s a monster of a stroller with 20 inch wheels and a very streamlined body. And it rolls like a dream – in fact, it almost drags me along, making me go faster. Lil Z hasn’t managed to stay awake for more than the first 5 minutes when using it, so I assume that means she’s comfortable, too. But even used running strollers on eBay aren’t cheap here, so I am determined to make the most of it.

Most of the motivation to go running with Lil Z, however, is the feeling of joy I get from doing it. That may sound a little crazy to the non-runners out there, because on the whole, running is a painful, sweaty experience. But for just a few minutes on each run, I’m too focused on the moment to think about the black cloud of worry and anxiety that usually hangs over me. I’m enjoying my route along the Brisbane River too much to get angry with myself for failing to do as much physio with Lil Z as I should or wonder if Vegemite would be reading better if I spent more time working with her. For a few minutes, I feel truly happy for no reason at all. I’m out with Lil Z on a beautiful day, running along the river, feeling good – a simple kind of joy.

Of course it only lasts a few minutes, because after that my lungs once again feel like they are going to explode out of my chest. My legs come up with new aches and pains. And I’m dripping with sweat. Not so much joy, but still a sense of accomplishment. And Lil Z is always a good excuse to stop for a sip of water and to take some pics of her fast asleep in her lean, mean running machine.

I’ve been a bit surprised by the lack of information out there on running with your special needs child. Obviously it’s not for everyone, but I find there is no greater way to blow the cobwebs out of my head and shake off the stress of the day. Yes, there are times were we have to take vomit stops. And I’ve had to pull up and check that she isn’t having a seizure a few times. And if she’s in a bad place, I probably wouldn’t take her out. But it is something Lil Z and I can do just for fun.

So, you’ll have to forgive me (or better yet, support and encourage me!) if I use this blog to share my experiences running with Lil Z. It took me a lot of online research, test drives in a number of strollers and a lot of random emails to choose the right stroller for Lil Z. And running with her is a work in progress. So, as Lil Z would say at the start of a run, sit back and enjoy the ride…

The geeky details:

For those curious about running strollers, I chose a Baby Jogger Performance. I’ve been informed by Baby Jogger that the Performance has been discontinued, but I did find them for sale new on a few websites, mainly out of the US. I got mine on eBay – it’s about 6 years old, but hasn’t been used much and is in very good condition.

Your average running pram isn’t designed for a special needs child, so I had to do research and test the few I could get access to (running strollers are scarce in Australia with many people importing them from the US). I initially had a look at an old model Baby Jogger 2 (again, on eBay) and decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for Lil Z because the seat was very upright and didn’t recline at all. Although if she’s supported, Lil Z can sit upright, I didn’t think it would be comfortable for her or safe for her neck over long periods or with bumps and bouncing.

I also tested the BOB Ironman, which appears to be the only brand for sale in Australia. It is a beautiful pram with a fantastic sunshade and reclining seat, but Lil Z was just too tall. Her head nearly touches the top of the sunshade now, so it wouldn’t have lasted long. I’d read some really good reviews of the BOB Ironman, so I was disappointed that it wasn’t for us.

I also bid on eBay for a Kool Stride running stroller. It was big enough and had an adjustable recline, but unfortunately my poor bidding skills meant I lost the auction. Kool Stride are another brand that are always highly rated on running websites, but they are incredibly difficult to find – even outside Australia.

Kool Stride, along with Baby Jogger, make all-terrain and running strollers for larger special needs children. They look great – and open up options for not only running, but going “off-road” with your child in places where a wheelchair wouldn’t be able to go. However, they are much more expensive than your average running stroller (retailing at $900 and upward), so I’d hoped to avoid that expense for at least a few years. After all, when Lil Z outgrows the Performance (it has a maximum weight of 50kg / 100lbs), I may not want or be able to push 50+kg of child around anymore!

So, what do I like about the Performance?

  • It rolls along beautifully. I can run with one hand on it and even take both hands off it and it will still carry on in a smooth, straight line.
  • The seat is adjustable – Lil Z can sit fairly upright or in a reclined position. Most of the time she’s reclined because she’s asleep.
  • The seat is sort of hammock style, so Lil Z sways slightly while I run. This sounds a bit nausea-inducing, but she seems to like it.
  • It goes around corners well. I was a bit worried because it has a fixed wheel at the front, so I have to lift it slightly when I go around corners. However, it seems to be quite easy. In fact, I often feel like it is swinging me around sharp corners.
  • I run faster with it than on my own. Honestly. I was thundering along today. I think it’s because it rolls so smoothly that I’m constantly trying to keep up!
  • It has a basket attached to the back which means easy access for my water bottle and any Lil Z necessities.
  • It will fit Lil Z for at least another few years (she will be too tall for it before she’ll be too heavy – but as an exceptionally tall 2-year-old, she still has room to grow).

What’s not so good:

  • Only two seat positions – upright or reclined. And to change position is a bit fiddly. Mountain Buggy does it much better.
  • Brake leaves something to be desired. There is a hand brake so you can slow down on hills, but it is only for the front wheel, so you tend to skid and slide a bit – not good for an emergency stop if you’re going downhill. The parking brake is also a bit dodgy. I wouldn’t trust it on anything other than a level surface. My research tells me that later models have fixed this, however.
  • It’s a monster. You have to pop wheels off it to get it in the car. Granted, they’re quick release wheels, so not too difficult (or so QB tells me), but still…
  • The sunshade could be a lot better. I’ve got an Outlook solar shade (a great bit of kit) that fits over the Performance sunshade. However, if Lil Z is reclined, she can also get sun from the back. I’m going to have to pin a muslin or something to shade her there.

Overall though, I’m very happy with it. And I’m very happy running with it!


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