Moms that Run, Runners that Mom: Monica Jo

We are highlighting #motherrunner journeys over the next 2 weeks. In sharing these beautiful and challenging stories, we are reminded to move forward with compassion. Everyone’s experience with motherhood (and LIFE) is different… compassion for all mothers, mothers to be, mothers who have lost babies, and those trying to conceive. There is far more than meets the eye when it comes to judging another person. We hope reading the stories over the next two weeks moves your heart, inspires you to keep lacing up, motivates you to make time for yourself so you can be the best for others, and help another mother out whenever possible. We are stronger and better together.
Alright, let’s chat, tell us a little bit about yourself:
Hi, my name is Monica Jo Gilmore! I’m 35 years old, and am the mother to a beautiful eight year old daughter who is in the second grade. I have been running competitively for almost nineteen years and have been a running coach for sixteen years. I am a teacher and have also been a personal trainer for nine years. I was a four year, two sport (Cross Country and Track) collegiate athlete, and have competed at the Elite level ever since graduating back in 2003. Running has been a huge passion of mine ever since I discovered it, and I have said it more than once over the years that running has saved my life! I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the beautiful sport of running. When did you start running and what inspired your entry to this movement?
Monica Jo: I grew up in a small town and was always outside playing and doing something active. When I was around eleven, I remember I started to run the backroads of my small town because it was something to do! I would run or ride my bike everywhere. As I went through my teenage years, people would sometimes ask if I was training for something. My response was always, “No..I just like to run and ride my bike.” It wasn’t until my SENIOR year of high school that I discovered the sport of Cross Country! It was an instant love connection! I went on to run Track in the Spring of my Senior year and the rest is history..I was hooked!
SIB: If you ran before having kids, how has your relationship with running changed since becoming a mother? 
MJ: When I was a young girl, running was always a way for me to “escape.” And to this day, I have always been able to clear my mind, work out my emotions, run off my stress, and just “get away” from everything and sometimes everyone when I run. Also, before becoming a mommy, I could just get up and go run whenever I wanted to without having to consider anyone else’s schedule or needs. To this day running remains one of my number one stress relievers, and is always my first choice for exercise. But since becoming a mother, I now have to consider so many other factors and ensure that my little person is taken care of first and foremost. 
SIB: What has been or is your biggest challenge with running since having children?
I was a single mother for the first five years of Bella’s life, and before she started school, finding time to run was very difficult for me to manage. 99% of the time, if I wanted to run then that meant I was taking her with me and pushing her in the running stroller.  I started running with Bella when she turned four months old, and believe me, I battled with the stroller. I hated it at first! I would motivate myself to get out and run, but it was so hard because I basically had to relearn how to run and push a child in a stroller. I cried, I screamed, I threw lots of fits, and told myself I should just quit running because I wasn’t enjoying it at all!!! But, thankfully I got through my tantrums and kept at it (even if it meant that some runs I was crying the whole time), and for five years it actually became a very intimate and special time for me and my daughter to share together. She went everywhere with me and I pushed that stroller through every kind of terrain! I got a lot stronger because of that. 😉  However, now that Bella is in class all morning, I am able to do my running in the mornings and that has been very good for my soul! I need my alone time on my runs, but I know that when I have more babies, I am sure to return back to this struggle..but hopefully it won’t be as bad this time since I now have my husband who can support me with the “time-outs” to go run that I will surely need. ☺
SIB: How has having child/children changed your relationship with your body?
MJ: Before having my daughter, I was in the best shape of my life, and I had finally come to enjoy my body and what it was physically capable of doing. I was strong and fast, and had worked so hard to accomplish my running and weight lifting goals. When I was in middle school and high school, I struggled with low self-esteem and a negative body image, but when I discovered running, it really helped me change the way I viewed myself and my body.  I grew to love my body, and I had been living such an active and athletic lifestyle that when I got pregnant, I thought fitness during pregnancy would be a piece of cake! I was so wrong! When I was pregnant with Bella, I had to stop running at five months and was basically limited to walking and light hiking. I also dealt with nausea throughout the entire pregnancy, and this was all very hard for me, because I was uncomfortable almost all the time, and didn’t have running as an outlet for relief. I only ended up gaining nineteen pounds throughout the entire pregnancy, and when Bella was born, I lost the weight fairly quickly because I was breast feeding. (I had) the feeling that my body was no longer my own, at least in the beginning [of coming back postpartum], was something I had to keep reminding myself was only temporary!  It was hard though because I breast fed Bella for almost two and a half years..yes, I know that’s a long time, but remember, I was a single mom, and she was practically glued to my hip, so weaning was very hard. Plus it was also another way for her and I to bond in those first precious years of her life. Since growing a baby in my belly, giving birth, breast feeding, getting back into shape, and successfully getting my child through the first eight years of her life so far, I am impressed with the female body, and more personally my own!
SIB: What do you admire most about other moms?
MJ: Like I said above, I am impressed with the female psyche and body! To be physically capable of growing a baby in our bellies, and to go through such dramatic physical, mental, and spiritual changes during birth and beyond-  I really do think moms are real life super heros! We are so incredibly strong, courageous, resilient, and tenacious!  I know my journey is similar to other moms…and I admire the heart of a mother who is able and willing to learn how to balance life and adjust to looking past “self” and caring for in a very mighty way, our little people!
SIB: How have your children inspired you (in running or in life)?
MJ: Isabella Grace changed my world for the best in every way possible. The moment I found out I was pregnant, my life shifted, and the little person growing inside of me became my priority.  I sacrificed and endured a lot as a single mother, but I do not regret anything because I am proud of the mother she has inspired me to be.  Isabella has truly motivated me to be better in every aspect of my life. She is my greatest gift and has been worth every sacrifice and every struggle that she and I endured together.  Isabella is my only living child, but my husband and I have endured the painful losses of two babies in the last two years. When I went into premature labor on May 20th, 2015, and gave birth to my still born son, Sydney, on May 21st, I thought I would never recover from such a devastating loss.  This was definitely the lowest point in my life, but with God, my family, friends, community, and especially my husband and daughter, I was able to pick up the broken pieces of my life and keep pressing forward.  Isabella truly inspired me to keep striving towards healing because I believed she deserved the best of me, and the only way I could give her the best was if I was healthy! It’s incredible how having children to care for and love can inspire us to rise above the most tumultuous of times. I also believe that my son and my second Angel baby (that I lost early on) are in Heaven and want me to keep living a life that I love…no matter what!
SIB: What is something you are proud of in your running and something you are proud of as a mom?
MJ: In my running, I am proud that I have continued to improve and have not given up on pursuing my goals! Running is still one of my biggest passions, and I am proud that I have made it a lasting part of my life! I have accomplished a lot through my running. It has opened up many incredible doors of opportunity over the years and so I am very grateful for the amazing adventure I have enjoyed because of my relationship with running! I am also proud that I have been blessed to coach, teach, and inspire others to run, and live passionately, and have been able to make it into a successful and satisfying career. I am also proud that I do not take running for granted. I know what it’s like to be injured, too sick to run, and pregnant and on bed rest, and so having an able body is a blessing that I cherish because I know how fast it can all be taken away. I will definitely remain active and RUN for as long as my body allows me to…and I pray that is for at least another 35 years and beyond! 😉
As a mother, I am proud of myself for making my daughter my number one priority.  My biological mother died when I was three years old from a drug overdose, and for many years I held a lot of anger and hurt in my heart. I thought for a long time that she was selfish to choose drugs or ANYTHING over me, and it affected my perspective on life for many years. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, I am healed from that pain, but a long time ago, I made a resolution that when it became my turn to be a mother, that I would make sure my child would always be my priority.  And so, when I learned I was expecting Bella, my dreams, priorities, and goals shifted, and everything I have done since has been with her best interest in heart.  I love my daughter above anything else and I am proud to be her mommy..and I am certain that she knows just how much she is loved! 
SIB: What is the best advice you have for other runner moms or runner moms-to-be?
MJ: My advice would be to not give up…on life or on running! If running is important to you, then keep trying to implement it into your routine and life. It’s ok to “strongly dislike” the process at times (like I did!), but work it out, and persevere through the hard times. You will be so much stronger and wiser because of the amazing lessons you will learn! Learning how to run as a new mom, especially as a single mom, was not easy for me, but it was worth the battle, and it has helped me to set a healthy example for my daughter.  I have taught her everything she knows about health and fitness, and have role modeled for her the importance of good nutrition, daily exercise, and courageous living. Let your child(ren) inspire you to continue to grow into the best version of YOU , and know that in return, YOU will truly be their biggest inspiration in life as well! It’s a beautiful trade-off! ☺
SIB: Fill in the sentence “I mom so hard, I __________________
MJ: “I mom so hard … I cry sometimes!” 
Monica Jo: Thank you for letting me share a small snippet of my crazy yet beautiful adventure and journey! ☺❤🙏🏻 Instagram @bodybymojo
Photo of Monica and her daughter Bella below. She got it from her mama!
Categories Moms that Run, Runners that Mom

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