Running and Motherhood, by Gina Miller

For the many who do not know me, my name is Gina Miller (formerly Gina Bartolacci). I am an avid runner and new MOM residing in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA.

Running has played a large role in my life since I graduated college nearly ten years ago. My initial motivation to run was to lose a few pounds. As I got faster and more competitive, running became much more than just a hobby.

I run almost daily.

Truthfully, I do not feel quite myself on days that I do not run. Running, in a way, is my therapy. It is my time to let my mind wonder, to take out my aggression, and to heal from my wounds. It is my time to organize and mentally prepare for my day ahead. People often ask how or why I do it. Why I get up at 5am just to ensure I can get my run in.

Quite simply, I am my best self when I can run. I am more patient, my mind is clearer, and I feel best about myself. My perception of the way I see myself is a big contributor to my happiness. It’s a very easy decision for me to wake up 5am if it is going to make me feel good. I challenge those that think I am crazy to try it themselves, and maybe they too will understand.

In April of last year, my husband Scott and I were blessed with a beautiful baby boy – Brooks. Some may be quick to think his name has something to do with the running shoe brand. However, that isn’t the case. We both just really liked the name Brooks. Coincidentally, my first ever true pair of running shoes in college were a pair of Brooks.

Shortly after I raced my first 50 miler in November of 2016, Scott and I began seriously thinking about starting a family.

After trying to get pregnant for a good part of 2017 without success, I was convinced that my high mileage running, and consequently low body fat may be contributing. I made the very hard decision to stop running in the hopes of increasing our chances. At that point, starting a family was what I wanted more than anything. Thankfully, within a few short months, I was pregnant.  Then at 10 weeks pregnant, I felt comfortable to begin running again.

Before Brooks entered the world, and during the years I was training hard chasing down marathon P.R.s, my typical day started at 5 or 5:30am. I would rise, brew my coffee (more caffeine, please!), and get going on my workout. I was usually running by 6 or 6:15am. Most days I would run all the way up until 7:30 before hopping in the shower and getting off to work. Clearly now, with a 9-month-old, my morning routine differs quite drastically some days.

Brooks arrived in early April of last year just in time to start logging some of my favorite warmer spring miles.

One of my top items on my baby registry, was the Bob Revolution running stroller for obvious reasons. By three weeks post-partum, I was itching to run. So Brooks and I headed out on our first of now countless running adventures in the Bob.

I am the type of person who thrives on routine. With a newborn, I learned very quickly that my stubborn mindset about running and sticking to a workout routine had to go. I had to learn to be flexible. During my maternity leave, every morning looked different depending on the night we had with Brooks. The time I woke up varied. It was dependent on the number of times Brooks got up to feed and how quickly we would get back to sleep.

Sleep, specifically falling back to sleep, is a struggle for me. There were (and still are) nights where I was up at 2am for good after feeding Brooks because I couldn’t get back to sleep. On these occasions, Brooks and I went out for some very early stroller rides!
Our daily stroller runs were one of the few constants during my time off with Brooks. Without fail, we would head out each morning for ~8-10 miles.

Our stroller runs are some of my favorite times with Brooks.

When you are pushing a stroller, 8-10 miles can take a long time! As a breastfeeding mama with a baby that needed to eat every 2-3 hours, I would rush to get out of the house as fast as I could after Brooks woke and ate so that we could get the most out of our runs. It was always a game to see if I could get showered and down my Cocoa Elite recovery drink before Brooks started to fuss, wanting to eat again.

I know Brooks loves our runs as much as his mom does. He always gives me a big smile when the sun outside hits his face as we exit the garage for an adventure. I love watching how interested he is in his surroundings and how much he enjoys looking up at the trees. Because of all the working out I was able to do while pregnant, I believe Brooks finds comfort in and loves the jostling of the stroller. He has taken his share of naps, and the fresh air tends to knock him out.
Now that the colder winter weather is upon us, Brooks and I do not get out nearly as much for stroller runs. I do miss it, but I would hate it if he was ever cold!

Our mornings look different when we are inside.

Typically, I am mid-run when Brooks wakes in the morning. I have had to become more flexible when it comes to stopping mid-workout to tend to Brooks. Previously, I was very stubborn when it came to working out. I would never let anything stand in the way or interrupt me during my runs. This approach no longer works! I still get my workouts in, just with more interruptions. When Brooks does wake during my workout, I have learned that I need to be creative. He can only be entertained so long while watching me run on a treadmill! I may need to change up his activities a few times while I manage to finish up my run.

I stopped breastfeeding in December of last year, and this free time has allowed me to focus a bit more on my running. Consequently, I decided to sign up for a local Winter Series of races near my house. The series spans from December through February, and there are 11 races in total. The series has allowed me to enjoy being competitive again. So far, I have managed to win all 4 races I have competed in to date.

Having Brooks at the finish lines of these races has made racing even sweeter.

I remember vividly thinking about Brooks and my husband Scott during last weekend’s race when the going got tough. Knowing that both of them are out supporting me serves as extra motivation not to let negative thoughts creep in and to finish strong!

Prior to having Brooks, I used to put a lot of pressure on myself when it came to running and racing. Sometimes, I would get so nervous for my marathons that I wondered if it was truly worth it. Shouldn’t racing be the fun part?

Having Brooks has opened my eyes up to so much. He has taught me to be present and live in the moment, and I truly never thought it would be possible to love something so much. There is so much to look forward to, and in the short term I look forward to seeing his smiling face at many more finish lines this winter.

Gina Bartolacci Miller is a competitive running champion and avid runner who currently resides in the Philadelphia area.

Gina’s passion for running began when she signed up for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 2011. To her surprise, she qualified for the Boston Marathon. Throughout 2012, Gina continued running marathons and worked her way up through the age group rankings.

Currently her best marathon race took place in Virginia Beach, where she took 2nd place with a new personal best time of 2:45:17.

Gina also challenged herself and tested her fitness by competing in the grueling JFK 50 Mile race.



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