Sarah Bowen Shea does everything like a mother. She trains like a mother, she runs like a mother, and she tackles online business like a mother. This inspirational lady and her business partner Dimity McDowell are the founders of Another Mother Runner, an online space that they describe as a ‘Virtual Aid Station’ for likeminded women that juggle motherhood, work, and looking after themselves. Their message which encourages a healthy lifestyle for women of all ages, shapes and sizes, has resonated with thousands of women all over the world. Here we chat with Sarah about how they did it and what they love most about running their business.
Who are you and what do you do?
Another Mother Runner is a virtual aid station for women runners that also has an in-person component. Online, we offer support and encouragement via our website, podcast, Facebook page, and other social media outlets; in person, we speak at race expos and host about a dozen Mother Runner parties around the country.
How did you ladies get started?
The seed for Another Mother Runner was our first book, Run Like a Mother, published in March 2010; we followed that up with Train Like a Mother in March 2012. Our third book debuts next spring. Dimity and I were both freelance health and fitness writers for about two decades, and Run Like a Mother sprung out of feature we wrote for Runner’s World magazine about juggling marathon with motherhood.
Oh, and I should have mentioned: I’m a mother of three kids (12 and twin 8-year-olds), and I live in Portland, Oregon. Dimity McDowell, my co-author and business partner, lives in Denver, Colorado, and she’s the mom of an almost-11-year-old and a just-turned-8-year-old.
What inspires you to keep running? And what about for blog and podcast content?
Dimity and I both run for myriad reasons, but top of our respective lists are me-time and sanity. We both feel alive and rejuvenated after a run, especially one that’s outdoors. We draw inspiration from our training, our families, our interactions with our vibrant mother runner community, and our AMR travels.
How have you built up your fan base and online presence?
Another Mother Runner’s growth has all been organic, through word of mouth. Motherhood and running can both be isolating, solo experiences, and AMR offers a supportive, encouraging, and fun community where no question is too basic—or too much information. For instance: Every Tuesday morning, we have a TMI Tuesday post on our Facebook page, and we talk about everything from having your period on race day to pooping during a run.
Talking and selling our merchandise at race expos and hosting mother runner parties is a great way to spread the word about Another Mother Runner. And women seem to really love the community and what we do, so they share our books and AMR with their friends.
Are there any particular challenges that you’ve faced along the way that you could share with us?
We are two freelance writers who never set out to build a business, so we are making up the rules and practices as we go. I wish I could travel back in time to get an MBA so that we could be more effective in building marketing partnerships, but we’ve done relatively well so far.
How about any special achievements or favourite moments?
Our first-ever running challenge just wrapped up, in which more than 400 women completed either a 10K or half-marathon race thanks to following our training plan and receiving support from us on Strava, in a weekly newsletter, and via monthly webinars. It was called the AMR Strava Prove It Challenge. When we launched the Challenge in early January, we set our bar for success at 100 women; we ended up with just over 400 participants! The women were so enthusiastic and grateful—it was an incredibly rewarding experience for us as well as them.
We just launched our next challenge—dubbed 13.FUN—this week and we’re looking forward to helping women reach the finish line of a half-marathon this fall.
What tools do you use to manage and grow your online presence?
Not sure if these count as “tools,” but we are on many social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Our podcast is our runaway success, and it’s one of our most successful tools in building our community. Plus, it’s a boatload of fun to record!
Describe a typical day in your life.
Hah! Not sure any mother runner ever has a “typical” day, but here goes: Alarm goes off at 5:32 a.m., and I run from 6-7 a.m. Get my kids ready and drop them at school between 7-9 a.m., and I eat breakie in that timeframe, too. I work from 9:00-5:30 or 6 p.m. If kids have soccer, baseball, or track practice, I go get them, then make dinner. By about 8:00 p.m., I’m a zombie, so we chill out reading or watching TV. We all go to bed around 9:30 p.m.
What has been the biggest surprise you’ve had along the way?
Every day our community of mother runners reaffirms my faith in the kindness and goodness of humanity. It’s so easy to be a hater online, but the women in our tribe write incredibly supportive, warm, witty, and heartfelt comments on our blog, on our Facebook page, via Twitter, email, you name it. While we may have different religious, political, or parenting beliefs, we come together with a shared love of running and the importance of carving out a sliver of time to call our own. It’s sappy but true: I laugh and get teary-eyed just about every day based on mother runner comments.
What would you say to others who are thinking about taking a similar path in running an online business or blog?
Follow your passion and have a partner to share the success—and the burdens.
What’s next for the Mother Runners?
We were thrilled to debut the audio version of our first book, Run Like a Mother. Next up: at least one multi-day, women’s running retreat in 2015. (You heard it here first!)
Don’t forget to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.