A Kalispell mother’s record-setting — and first — marathon run while pushing three children in a stroller is set to officially join the roster of Guinness World Records.
At her home on July 11, Theresa Marie Pitts, 38, talked about the transformative experience of crossing the finish line at the Missoula Marathon last weekend. Her joyful and effervescent personality was exmplified by her T-shirt that read “Good Vibes” in colorful lettering.
“My prayer was to share my message of hope and inspire others to create an awesome ending to their own stories. Honestly, these records are neat, but those close to me know my heart and know that that is my ultimate goal — to teach and inspire others,” Pitts said as her voice wavered. “And that’s what’s the most amazing thing about this whole thing, because it’s happening.”
The mother of eight is in the midst of assembling the necessary documents, witness statements, photos and video footage to submit as evidence for Guinness to verify the world record in which she had to run the marathon at, or under, 4 hours and 30 minutes while pushing the children in a stroller.
To prepare, Pitts ran a half-marathon and was encouraged by the results. A race predictor showed she could make the time standard on the dot, but without any wiggle room.
Buckled into the stroller Pitts dubbed “blue trip,” were her youngest children: 4-year-old Evan, 2-year-old Anders and 5-month-old Avi. The weight of everything adds up.
“It’s over 145 pounds with stroller, babies and supplies,” Pitts said. “With the marathon it was a little more because I added the extra fuel and water. It was pushing 150 pounds at least.”
All the logistics, training and sleep-schedule adjustments were done in advance to prepare herself and her children, who she calls her “little team” for race day.
“I sacrificed my nighttime sleep to let them stay up a little bit later and sleep in a little later,” Pitts said.
On race day they slept or dozed for the majority of the marathon.
Pitts also taught Avi, who is breastfed, to use a bottle during the race.
With so many potential things that couldn’t be planned for, what was her mindset?
“There were so many variables out of my control,” she said.
The stroller could pop a tire or break down, or the children could break down.
“I had to keep a positive attitude,” she added. “I just had to focus on positive things — things would turn out how they needed to.”
Her children’s well-being took priority over the record attempt, she noted.
“If they need me, I’m going to take care of them. If I have to pull over I’m going to,” she said.
Sshe only stopped twice. At mile 6, little Anders got out of his buckle to stand up, and at mile 8 she stopped to burp and snuggle Avi.
Pitts knew she had to be strategic and carefully maintain a steady pace. Still, she achieved a negative split, meaning the second half of her race was slightly faster than the first.
She admitted that fatique set around mile 16.
Then, “I kind of hit a wall around mile 20,” Pitts said.
She started to notice racers pacing themselves at 4:30:00 were passing her.
“I’m like ‘Oh no, you gotta dig deep here ‘cause they’re passing you up.’ I realized, wow, I could just miss the mark by a minute. At that point it was very difficult. I was completely exhausted. I was feeling sick and I was in a lot of pain,” Pitts said.
Somehow, she reached a state of mind over body and pushed on.
“I tapped into an extra reserve tank that I didn’t know I had,” Pitts said.
She also turned her thoughts and concern to encouraging on a young runner who was also struggling. Talking about the moment stirred up emotion in Pitts.
“This young man was fighting hard too. He was fading fast and so he was trying to get under 4:30:00. The more I encouraged him and helped pull him along, the more strength I felt within myself,” Pitts said.
At last, Pitts reached the finish line punching her fist into the air.
Her time — 4:25:00.
“I was overwhelmed with relief and excitement, joy and unbelief,” Pitts said.
By achieving the marathon goal she hoped to impart to her children the value of persistence and determination.
“I want to teach them mental toughness. I want to teach them to have the attitude of — no excuses, I can do hard things,” Pitts said.
Pitts didn’t discover her passion for fitness until her sixth child was born. Before that, she had been an outdoorsy person, but wasn’t regularly running or training.
“I was in a depressive slump and was searching for a healthy way to get back on track mentally, physically and spiritually. So I set a goal, and with a little bit of training went out and raced my first sprint triathlon. And absolutely loved it,” Pitts said.
She encourages people to start their path to fitness in simple ways.
“Assess where you’re at and then do a little bit more. Just do a little bit more than you’re doing today,” Pitts said.
Finding time to run solo also meant finding a babysitter, so Pitts started bringing her children along while her older children attended school. Her children then became her motivation in putting the time and effort into balancing life with fitness.
“I knew [for] my children it would be so beneficial too — for them to get out in nature, in the fresh air,” Pitts said.
“We have such an enjoyable time. We just chat and laugh and sing songs and have a good time.”
Her mileage usually is between 8 to 12 miles and she can tell when it’s time to call it a day.
“When my 4-year-old starts saying ‘Mommy this sidewalk is really long,’ that cues me in to that’s time to turn around and go home,” Pitts said.
She says it’s difficult to imagine running without the kids, but she hopes that one day her children will be running alongside her.
“My little ones, they already like to get out and run alongside me already,” Pitts said. “They’re little runners already. My older kids are saying, ‘Mom we want to do a 5K with you.’ They’re picking up on it.”
And in a final thought on the marathon, Pitts wanted to read a post she wrote on social media to friends:
“When we’ve come to a point where we think we have reached our limit and can’t do anymore, we’ve only accomplished a fraction of what we are capable of doing. So stretch yourself and keep on reaching.”
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.