Saying Linda Gill was born to run might be an exaggeration, but since her teens she has trained for and competed in races. Her freshman year in high school a PE teacher noticed Gill’s ability during a fitness class and singed her up for the track team; her sophomore year a coach grabbed Gill from the swimming pool to conscript her for women’s cross country. She honed her natural talent, winning at the state level for high school, the national collegiate level as a student at UCLA, and now continues to compete. But while every race has a clearly marked finish line, Gill faced challenges without such well-defined endings: primarily parenting. Over the last 23 years, one of her main tasks has been balancing a passion for running with her responsibilities as a mother of four. Often, it’s not as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
“I think as a mom it’s important to find something to do for yourself—for me it’s always been running,” Gill said. “It’s a continual challenge because there’s always a thousand excuses not to do it”. Nevertheless, she has stayed committed to her pastime. Before jogging while pregnant became a common sight, Gill found time to get out on the roads in an oversized tank top.
“I got so many looks,” she said. “They weren’t admiring”
Although mommy jogging gained popularity, she still faced obstacles as her children grew up. At one point, she was driving her kids to four different schools in the mornings. Crafting a routine for herself and finding people to run with kept her out on the trails in Marin County, CA, where she and her family live. She also managed to stay connected to running by coaching student athletes for the last eight years, six of them as a volunteer head coach of the Branson School, a private high school in Ross, CA.
“Make something a priority and you’ll find time to make it happen,” Gill said.
Gill continued to compete at a high level after having her first two children, but has significantly decreased the amount of time she runs after her fourth. Still she manages to get out three times a week, and even participates in a few races. Last year she won the 5th Avenue Mile, a 20 block dash through Manhattan for the 50+ age group.
“I still love to run,” she said.
One of the reasons Gill can still do it is that 30 minutes is enough time to fit in a quality workout if you stick to roads around your neighborhood. Friends or neighbors are usually more than willing to spend half-an-hour on a babysitting shift.
“For moms, it’s especially good if you can get out and do something,” Gill said. “Some people worry that [taking that time for themselves] makes them selfish. It doesn’t at all; it’s going to make you a better person to be with.”
Her youngest is now in high school and her oldest is a grad student at the University of Southern California, and Gill recently retired from her coaching position at Branson. She’s currently weighing her options regarding what to do next, but whatever her choice, it’ll certainly involve plenty of parenting, and running as well. If time and conditioning permit, she’ll also enter the over-50 800-meter dash at a national meet in Wisconsin later this summer.