Join us for an insightful conversation with Mathieu Feder Schwaner, a runner who effortlessly merges his passion for the sport with the joys of parenting by racing together with his two young sons in a stroller - Louie and Philip. Mathieu's journey is an inspiring testament to the beautiful harmony between nurturing a family and pursuing one's love for the sport.
Last year Mathieu ran the 2022 Copenhagen Half Marathon in 1:14:12, and more recently the 2023 Copenhagen Marathon in 2:39:50. These times are extraordinarily fast for any runner, and he did that while pushing his two sons on a twin jogging stroller, making it World Records at both distances.
In this interview, Mathieu reveals what ignited his journey, the challenges and triumphs of training and racing with his children, and his dreams for the future, all while keeping the bond of family at the heart of his story. Read on to discover the world of Mathieu Feder Schwaner and his stroller racing adventures, where determination and a shared family spirit converge on the racecourse.
What inspired you to race with your two kids in a stroller?
My sons have consistently joined me in my training, with roughly 80% of my runs involving them. Running events in Denmark have a wonderful atmosphere, so it seemed only natural to bring my boys along so that we could share the experience together. I can still recall participating in the 2017 Aarhus City Half Marathon with Louie, who was just shy of 2 years old at the time. He actually fell asleep right before we reached the finish line. Since that day, we have taken part in many races together. However, before every race, I always ask whether the boys are wanting to join me, and they rarely decline.
And how did you even get into this in the first place?
It all began when we welcomed our first son, Louie. He is an incredible child with Down Syndrome, and his birth served as an "AHAH" moment for me. At that point, I felt a strong urge to achieve something special for him.
I was originally inspired by a former elite athlete from Canada who consistently ran with their kids. When Louie was just 3 months old, we embarked on our running journey together. It turned out to be a win-win-win situation – (1) he got some quality time to nap or relax, (2) his mother had a chance to take a break and relax too, and (3) I made significant strides in building back my fitness. When Philip (my second son) came along, I acquired my first double stroller. Fortunately, he also embraced running like his older brother, and it became an integral part of our lives. Over the years, they have proven to be my finest and most loyal training and racing companions. As they get older, they have also taken on some new tasks, like handling my energy products and managing the music, acting as my DJs throughout the race.
One of the things that Louie and Philip love about racing is the crazy atmosphere; both the excitement at the start line, the cheering of the spectators as we race through the city, and the happy feelings that come with crossing the finish line.
Can you share some tips and tricks for other parents who dream about racing with their kids?
If your goal is to race with your children, it is essential to incorporate them into your training routine to familiarise them with the activity. That way you can make sure they get used to the up-and-down / side-to-side movement that comes with running.
Other crucial aspects in guaranteeing a successful race are selecting the right clothing to ensure their comfort, packing some snacks (for both me and the little ones), and making sure they have visited the toilet before the race begins.
Once the race is underway, the most important thing is ensuring the safety of your children and everyone else around you. Make yourself visible, and consider attaching a bell to your stroller, which you can ring if you need to overtake another runner. Keep in mind that running with a stroller can have its advantages, as you can carry a water bottle and all the necessary energy supplies for the race.
Use the presence of your children as a source of motivation to push yourself beyond your limits. I have personally experienced a tremendous boost in motivation when running with the kids.
What is the most difficult thing, in training and racing, when running with a stroller?
One of the most challenging aspects of racing is getting off to a good start, especially when you are in a crowded field, like CPH Half. You should be prepared to exert some effort when going uphill and accept the possibility of losing a few positions due to a loss of momentum. However, you can regain your position when the terrain is downhill or flat. It's important not to rely on maintaining a consistent pace and instead be ready to adapt based on the race's elevation profile.
When it comes to training, flexibility is key. Your training schedule needs to revolve around what is best for the rest of your family, and not just you. This means selecting training times that align with the family's needs. For example, I schedule my long runs in the middle of the day during weekends because that is when Louie and Philip tend to have lower energy levels and can relax in the stroller for about 20 kilometres.
Another crucial aspect is maintaining high motivation and being prepared to face the elements. When you choose to be a "stroller runner," there are no days off on a treadmill. You're ready to run regardless of the weather conditions, whether it is raining, dark, snowing, and so forth. During the winter, make sure your stroller is enclosed, allowing the kids to stay warm and cosy inside while you put in the effort.
You run at a pretty impressive pace during races - is this something you also practise with your kids? Or do they just tag along for the ride on race day?
I do nearly all of my training with my kids, including some challenging interval sessions. However, I enjoy going the distance; doing the long steady runs both at home, when we are on vacation or staying at our summerhouse.
When it comes to hard interval training, it is essential to select a course that you are familiar with. Opt for a route that is free from heavy traffic, so that you can concentrate on your workout without compromising the safety of both yourself and your children.
Any racing goals or new PB’s for the future - Kids included, obviously?
My dream is to participate in one of the World Majors, or to run more of Super Half’s together with my boys. My guiding motto going into a race has always been ‘PB’ – that way, when you enter a race, you are ready to give it your all and not to settle for anything else with things getting tough.