On Motherhood and Marathons
Editor’s note: This feature is brought to you by New Balance, The Running Company and the new FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 carbon-plated race shoe. New Balance’s range of running shoes is now available at your local The Running Company store.
Ellie Pashley is back. After having her first baby, a girl named Tiggy, in June last year, she’s now heading to the London Marathon.
“I didn’t decide to do a marathon until maybe January or February this year. Before then, we weren’t sure if it was a little too soon,” Pashley says from her Aireys Inlet home.
Pashley is one of Australia’s best marathoners, an Olympian and a New Balance athlete. Along with her coach, Julian “Moose” Spence, she’s also co-owner of coaching business Run Strong and the co-founder of the Surf Coast Track Club. She marked her return to international competition in the World Cross Country Championships at Bathurst in February.
“When I told New Balance I was pregnant they were extremely supportive and contacted me immediately to say, ‘Nothing changes, we’re going to support you through this and then you’ll come back.’”
“I started feeling like things were clicking and felt like I had enough time to prepare for a marathon. Basically, I built up to World Cross Country and then, for London, I’m doing a shorter block than usual. So I’m doing what I can in that sort of couple of months between World Cross and London. It’s gone really well, so far.”
With everything going well, Pashley says she originally wasn’t too focused on a time but now has her eyes on both the qualifying time of 2:28:00 for the World Champs at Budapest in August and the Paris Olympics qualifying time of 2:26:50.
“I feel like if I’m going all the way there I may as well have a crack at the Olympic qualifier, but we’ll see. It will depend on what the pace groups are doing as well, which we don’t really know yet, but I assume there will be a group running around that Olympic qualifying time. So, yeah, my goal would be to try and have a go at that.”
She’s keeping an open mind about it all though.
“We’ve still got over a year until the Olympics; it’s in August next year, so I feel like I potentially have two more cracks at the marathon, if I want to. If this one doesn’t go well then maybe I try again for the second half of the year with a little more training under my belt. And if that doesn’t go well, then I could have a go early next year as well.
She’s also aware that the Australian team for Paris is going to be a tough one to crack.
“It’s going to be a really, really hard team to make … I think you’re going to have to run a fair way under the qualifying time.
“We’ve got two girls who have already got the time and they’ve run well under, so it’s going to be hard. So, it’s going to come down to the wire as to who gets that that third spot on the team. I expect to have to do at least another couple of marathons after this to try and get a spot.”
In helping her navigate her return to running, Pashley says New Balance have been fantastic.
“When I told them I was pregnant they were extremely supportive and contacted me immediately to say, ‘Nothing changes, we’re going to support you through this and then you’ll come back.’ That was a really nice thing because that’s probably one thing as female athletes when you’re thinking about having a baby. I mean, in this day and age it doesn’t happen as much, but previously people used to have contracts suspended, cancelled and all sorts of things.”
“In marathon running we’ve got all these women at the moment that have already done it and come back better than ever. I think in other sports it’s a fairly new thing, whereas I feel like in the marathon it’s actually been happening for a while, and particularly in Australia: the top women have had kids, come back, run faster than ever, run at the Olympics.”
For the London Marathon, Pashley will set her stride in the new FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 carbon-plated race shoe.
“I’m really particular about my shoes, so that was a very important thing to me that I signed with a brand whose footwear I believed in, both in training and racing, because these days it actually does make a really big difference for racing,” Pashley says.
“I’m excited to run my first marathon in the SuperComp Elite in a few weeks because I think they’re a great shoe and really advanced in terms of weight, propulsion and energy return.”
Pashley also loves New Balance’s “athletes first” approach to feedback and design.
“I’m always very honest with my feedback on the shoes. I’m probably annoying really, to be honest. But they’ve always been open to that and they want to hear it.”
For an elite athlete, there’s never going to be a perfect time to have a baby.
“I'm 34 now and so it was one of those things where I felt like if I wanted to have a family then I probably needed to start thinking about that sooner rather than later. And then I will still, hopefully, have time to come back and do a few more years of marathoning.
“But there's no good time, really. There’s never going to be a time where you’re not going to miss out on anything that you want to do.”
She has some good advice for runners, of all levels, who are expecting or thinking about having a baby.
“The big thing is everybody's a little bit different. Your pregnancy is different, your birth's different, your recovery's different. So what I would suggest is not getting too caught up in what other people are doing, even if they’ve also been through having a child.
“Instead, consider seeing a women's health physio afterwards, and even while pregnant as well, just to get good advice on what you should be doing and when, and how to prepare your body to return to running. Because there's a lot that goes into getting back to running before you're even allowed to run, from the strength perspective, and then they can look at you as an individual as well and sort of create a bit of a program there.”
Ellie’s own training program has changed slightly to allow for Tiggy.
“The big thing is my double runs I do on the treadmill. So, I'd never ever ran on the treadmill and now, in the afternoons, I do a treadmill run while Tiggy is asleep. Other than that, there's a lot more solo running or sessions I'm doing – I don't go to the track anymore. I used to go to the track almost every Tuesday, whereas now I'm sort of doing sessions like on the dirt roads near my house. So, it's a little different but it's achieving the same thing.
“We're still targeting the same things in workout, so the structure is fairly similar as far as I do a session on a Tuesday that's a bit shorter and faster, a longer threshold tempo run on Friday, long run Sunday with the [Surf Coast Track Club] group. It's just the locations are probably a bit closer to home.”
A few changes, but those dirt roads still lead to London. Where Tiggy and husband Joseph will be cheering from the sidelines.
“We're just trying to make the most of all the opportunities while they're here, and Tiggy and Jose will both come over to London with me as well. It will be good to have him there, and her there, and a bit of extra motivation out on the course.”