They’re raising 19 kids between them, working full-time jobs and now planning to cover 198 miles by foot in roughly 24 hours.
That’s no problem for the “Six Pack Mom Attack,” a group of five women runners from Northbrook and one woman from Deerfield, who will tackle the Ragnar Relay in June.
The relay race from Madison, WI, to Montrose Beach on Chicago's lakefront challenges teams of runners to cover nearly 200 miles as a group and raises money for Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that aids the homeless. The six women will trade off racing 36 legs among them over the course of the event, spending the rest of their time in two rented vans.
“We basically run, rest, eat, sleep in the vans,” said the team's leader, Karen Redmond.
A corrective exercise specialist and running coach, Redmond said that she was inspired to put together a group of runners to compete as soon as she heard about the race.
“I wanted them to be people that I thought were great," she explained. "But I also wanted them to be people that were pretty serious runners and well conditioned, not people who just start running in the spring when it gets nice out.”
Between her friends and their friends, Redmond had a talented pool to draw from. Her hand-picked team includes Stacy Abel, marathoner and mother of three; Whitney Martin, also a marathoner and mother of three; Kim Busch, Ironman competitor and mother of four; Jennifer Falk, marathoner and mother of two; and Allison Harris, who placed seventh in her age group during the 2009 Chicago Marathon and has three children.
“These women are winning races and placing in their age groups even in some of the races that have 10,000 runners in them,” said Redmond, who has two children.
The team leader adds that she also hopes they’re setting an example for other mothers who want to get into shape.
“Four of us are in our 40s,” she said. “I really wanted to try to empower and motivate women that have kids so they can be fit.”
Of course, the race is not so much about getting in shape for this group of women, who train year-round and have dozens of marathons under their collective belt. It’s really about the experience.
The runners will take turns running segments of the 198-mile race, ranging from 2.9 to 9.98 miles, as they follow the course south from Wisconsin. The race begins Friday morning and continues overnight into Saturday--meaning some people will be running during the middle of the night.
“I’m dreading the sleep,” Falk said at a group meeting in early March.
Five of the women have gathered outside the Lululemon athletic store at Northbrook Court, where Redmond hands out color-coded charts that indicate which legs each woman will run. Total distances range between 25 and 42 miles, with the longest leg going to Harris, the group’s fastest runner and most accomplished marathoner.
The group is meeting to discuss training—practicing running up to three times a day and meeting for early morning track workouts—as well as the logistics of the trip.
Beyond simply the running, there's a lot to think about. They’re worried about the smell of sweaty runners in the vans and what they’ll eat. They can’t have too much food between legs, as it could make them sick. But should they snack on Gu, a jelly-like supplement? All natural Lara Bars? Can they sneak a sandwich? And what about sleep?
Though they’re nervous about the details, the group is also excited about the challenges—and the team aspect of what is typically a solo pursuit.
“Running is kind of a loner sport,” Redmond said. “Everyone’s pretty fired up about it, ‘cause we’re doing a team thing.”
They’re also excited about their sponsorship. Running Right, a specialty store in Highland Park, will supply the group with shoes, socks, hats, sunglasses and other equipment.
“Running Right is doing us just a huge, huge favor,” Martin said.
The store will also be holding a contest: Anyone who guesses a number closest to the group’s finishing time will receive a gift certificate.
“My goal for the team is just under 26 hours,” Redmond said. “I mean, if we did amazing we could get under 25.”
She’s confident about how her team will perform compared to the others in their age group.
“I have a pretty competitive group of runners and I expect them to do pretty well,” Redmond said.
After all, these women run year-round and dominate their age groups in half and full marathons—all while raising 19 children.
“I do a lot of pre and post-natal training, and I think a lot of times it's really hard for women after they have kids,” said Redmond. “Anything we can do to show them it’s possible will motivate them to get out and try something. I think that’s kind of what we all have in mind.”
To help the Six Pack Mom Attack raise money for Back On My Feet, follow this link: http://www.active.com/donate/BOMFChiRagnar/sixpack .