Not long after I started up my business I heard about an incredible mum (Jessica Bruce) who broke the Guinness world record marathon time running with a single buggy. Well she is at it again now she has another bundle of joy and I couldn't wait to hear all about it! Here is our interview!
1) Tell us about yourself!
My name is Jessica Bruce and I’m the Founder and Director of Run3D. Run3D is an Oxford spin-out bioengineering company that develops running gait analysis software. I live in Bristol with my husband David, an Orthopaedic Surgeon, and my two children Daniel (2.5 yrs) and Emilia (4 months).
2) How did you get into buggy running. Were you always a runner?
I have always been a keen runner and met my husband through the running club when we were both at Oxford University. We both competed at a relatively high level, I represented Wales in cross country on a couple of occasions and both my husband and I were awarded multiple Blues during our time at Oxford.
Running was such an important part of our lives together that when we decided to have children it wasn’t so much a question of stopping running but rather how we would fit it into our new life with a baby. The running buggy was the perfect solution. It enabled us to continue running together and also allowed me to run whilst my husband was at work.
3) What buggy do you run with? What do you like and not like about that buggy?
I’m very fortunate in that we actually have three running buggies! We originally bought the Bob Sports Utility Stroller for running with Daniel. We were then given a Bugaboo Runner for our World Record Marathon attempt and when Emilia was born, we were given an OutnAbout Nipper Sport Double for our double-buggy marathon attempt in October. This might seem excessive, but we do actually use them all! When I run on my own I take the double with both children and when David and I run together, we take one each!
Having run hundreds of miles with each one, they each have different features we like and don’t like. The Bugaboo Runner has a rear-facing seat, which is perfect for younger babies as they like to be able to see you. It corners well because the back wheels are positioned at a slight angle and it’s also very stylish. On the downside, it’sexpensive to buy and very wide for a single buggy.
The Bob Sports Utility Stroller is fantastic value for money and great for off-road running. It’s smaller than the Bugaboo Runner and also collapses easily so is good for taking in and out of the car. It doesn’t have the rear-facing seat however and the seat doesn’t lie completely flat, so is best used with slightly older babies.
When it came to finding a double running buggy, there aren’t many on the market and my two options were the Bob Sports Utility Stroller Double and the OutnAbout Nipper Sport Double. I opted for the Nipper Sport as it was significantly lighter and also could be used with a very young baby as the seats can lie completely flat. We’re really happy with it, it isn’t that much wider than the Bugaboo Runner and drives (runs!) smoothly.
4) Where is your favourite place to buggy run? And best buggy run route you have ever done?
Buggy-running is quite restrictive but we’ve been very fortunate in both Oxford and Bristol. When Daniel was young we lived in Oxford and used to drive to Blenheim Palace each Sunday for our long run.There is a 4-mile traffic-free route around the grounds and we used to do 4 or 5 laps of this and then have a picnic in the grounds afterwards. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday!
In Bristol my favourite route is running on the Bristol-Bath cycle track. This is a 16-mile traffic-free cycle route which is perfect for buggy running. Daniel loves it because we see the old steam trains at the Avon Valley Railway.
5) Tell us about the experience of your Guinness world record Buggy run! How was it and what was it like being in the media so much afterwards!
I decided to attempt the marathon buggy-running record as a personal challenge and to motivate myself after having Daniel. I trained really hard for it, building up the longer runs and doing speed work and tempo sessions as I would have done for a normal marathon except this time with the buggy!
My marathon PB is 2:58 and so I knew I would be able to complete it in a fairly respectable time but I had no idea exactly how fast. As I have already mentioned, all my long training runs at that time were done around Blenheim Palace, which is really hilly. As any buggy-runner will know, running hills pushing a buggy is incredibly hard work and so I didn’t know how the pace that I was running my long runs at Blenheim would translate to the flat course at Abingdon.
On race day itself I was excited but also incredibly nervous, there was so much that could go wrong that was out of my control – a screaming baby, a puncture, a nappy change! I was also still breast-feeding Daniel at the time but he wouldn’t eat anything just before the race as there were too many distractions. We had a bottle of milk prepared that we used at about Mile 20.
The plan was for my husband to run in front of me to find the best route, block some of the wind and warn other people that we were around them - although I had also fitted a bike bell to the buggy! I say ‘find the best route’ because a complication that non-buggy runners don’t even think about is the difficulty of curbs! Slowing down to mount or dismount a curb and then having to regain your speed is both tiring and can cost you as much as 30 seconds per mile so Dave had to find places where the curb dropped for us to mount and dismount without changing pace.He was also in charge of looking after Daniel, which included feeding him a bottle of milk at Mile 20 and singing nursey rhymes between miles 21 – 23, much to the amusement of the runners surrounding us!
We set off running at 7:30 mins/mile, which felt comfortable. This was faster than we had planned and as many a marathoner can attest to, was a risky move that could have ended in disaster. As it was, our hours spent struggling up the hills at Blenheim Palace were rewarded and we managed to maintain this kind of pace throughout the race.
I don’t have many memories of the race itself as I was concentrating on my running, but I do remember that everyone, both runners and spectators, were incredibly supportive, which certainly helped along the way! Daniel also slept until the last 6-miles, which certainly helped! I was delighted with the final time of 3 hours, 17 mins and 52 seconds.
The media attention afterwards was completely unexpected. I knew that BBC Oxford and the local paper were covering the story but I certainly didn’t anticipate the amount of attention we received! I still believe it was because we presented a feel-good story that appealed to a wide audience!
6) What races do you have coming up…?!
My next race is another World Record Marathon attempt at the Abingdon Marathon, but this time with the double-buggy! With less than 8-weeks to go, training is going well and we’re excited about the new challenge. Guinness says that I need to break 4 hrs and 30 minutes for the record. Whilst it’s very hard to predict what time I am going to run as there are even more things that could go wrong this time around, I’m pretty confident that I can achieve 4:30. My husband will run alongside me as before, I joke that his job of entertaining Daniel and Emilia will be harder than mine of merely pushing them for 26.2 miles!
7) What are your top tips when preparing for a buggy run?
Be prepared for everything and accept that you’ll probably have to stop several times during a run! I take snacks, nappy changing kit, a drink, a phone, some cash and my feeding cover in case I have to stop and breastfeed Emilia. Gone are the days of running out the backdoor with my keys! I also make my runs fun for the children. Emilia is easy as she just likes to watch everything but for Daniel we’ll feed the ducks or run to see the diggers and trains.
8) Finally what advice would you give to parents starting out buggy running?
Buy a proper running buggy!!
Whilst you might consider it expensive, especially if you have a ‘normal’ buggy as well, it’s cheap compared to the cost of gym membership and far more fulfilling. Both my children love running and it’s something we do together as a family.
Expect lots of strange looks
Whilst buggy-running is increasing in popularity, it’s still not a common sight and people will give you some strange looks. I also receive lots of comments as I’m running and whilst these are 99% positive, I don’t ever let the 1% of people who disapprove put me off. When I first started buggy-running I was very self-conscious but now I don’t care!
Hills are really hard work
If you thought hills were hard work without a buggy, think again! Don’t feel bad about walking if you have to – I still do on the really steep ones as I grind to a halt trying to run up them sometimes!
Run however is comfortable
When I first started buggy running someone said that the best way to do it was to push with one-hand only. I soon realised that this didn’t work for me and I now push with both hands at all times. Go with whatever works best for you.