Running a marathon is hard. Running a marathon with a stroller…even harder! Meet Calum Neff, father of three, semi-professional runner, and Guiness World Record Holder. That’s right, Cal has held not one, but three Guinness World Records for races with his daughters. With Father’s Day coming up (and Global Running Day, too!) we decided to interview Cal about his experiences and how he’s come to be known as “Stroller Dad!”
Give our interview a read and who knows, you may get inspired to grab your stroller and take your kiddos out for a run!
Thanks for chatting with us today! Can you give us a quick intro?
Hello! My name is Calum, a name that was given to me from being born in Aberdeen, Scotland to Canadian parents. Canada has always been home but I grew up in six different countries before settling in Texas the past 10 years.. My one constant through life has been running which I never stopped doing since I was four years old and today I run semi-professionally while managing my own coaching and race-directing businesses. I have three girls Aley (10), Holland (8), and Maya (6) who have all been a part of my running journey, joining me in the stroller for not just training but racing too.
What was your first stroller run like?
I had just moved back to Houston from Canada with one-year-old Aley and found a stroller at an REI garage sale. I started taking her to one of the most popular running trails in the country, Memorial Park, and saw how much she enjoyed being outside, people-watching, and the daddy-daughter dynamic was so different removing the “mommy factor”, our time together was so special.
Why/how did you decide to chase the Guinness World Records for stroller running?
The stroller training runs were not only special alone time with Aley but a great break for mom too so we started doing some local 5k’s together to enjoy the morning with the community, and found some success winning overall and running 15:40. That got the wheels turning of what was possible and it turned out there were existing records for “Fastest Time Pushing a Pram” for all of the standard distances.
Which records do you have? What do they mean to you and your girls?
It all began with the local Katy Half Marathon in 2016, I had just run 2:21 in the marathon and knew that breaking the 1:13 stroller record was possible. There were a lot of requirements to meet to be official with Guinness including documentation, a certified course, and a standard stroller. Holly was just about to turn one and ended up being the first across the line that day in a new record of 1:11:27.
Her older sister, Aley, couldn’t let her sister be the only WR holder so we went up to Toronto later that year when she was 4 (not a small kid!) and had an incredible performance running 2:31, she was the first Canadian woman across the line at the national Championships and while they didn’t honor that I earned a nice cash bonus for a top 5 finish in the men’s race.
Guinness was there to inspect the stroller and present our Guinness World Record Certificate. Then Maya came along, there was no way I could have two out of three daughters have records, so the search was on in the 10k. We returned to the first race I had run in 1988, 30 years later, at the Cajun Cup and had a great first 5k before turning into a debilitating headwind (stroller pushers know what I mean!). But, we tried again and in 2020 Maya was the first across the finish line with arguably our best performance, a 31:43 at the Houston Rodeo Run 10k.
What advice can you share with parents about how to get started with running (with or without a stroller)?
Get the right gear and fine-tune it. The more comfortable you and the child are, the more you will both want to get out there. I recommend the Thule Glide stroller with the fixed wheel if it’s purely a running stroller, the Urban Glide has a swivel wheel and is a better all-around stroller that is still great for running. Make sure to adjust the front wheel so there is no drift from one side or the other (all strollers can be adjusted). Be patient as both you and the kid get used to it, screaming fits are normal (for both!).
What tips do you have specifically for running with a stroller?
Bring snacks (for both of you)
Lighten up the grip, you don’t need to be a double-handed death grip. Relax, move from one side to the other, you don’t even need to stay directly behind all the time.
Flat and smooth pathways with little wind is most enjoyable (don’t tell mom but we’ve done some singletrack trail though too)
Choose a fun destination - a playground, lake, or somewhere to take a break.
Let the kid out - don’t forget they can get some exercise too
Do your daughters run?
Now that the girls have outgrown the stroller they are starting to find their own stride. Maya recently did a track race and it FOMO’d the others into track these next few weeks. They’ve enjoyed a few Turkey Trot’s and Aley’s first race was a one mile trail race.
Do you have any advice when it comes to getting kids excited about physical fitness & sports?
Set the example, but don’t make it about fitness, performance, weight loss, or anything but fun. To them, it should be a game, not training. Incorporate it naturally, and if it catches on more seriously for them consider some youth clubs to develop that passion. Ditch the shoes at a local turf and watch them fly, nothing more enjoyable than watching the natural stride of a kid. Donut rewards are welcome too.
We loved hearing more about Cal’s story and hope it inspired you as much as it inspired us! If you want to learn more and follow his journey, check out his website.