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Summer Sanders: Moms 'Have to Manage Expectations'

Last weekend, Olympic Gold Medal swimmer and mom Summer Sanders ran the New York Marathon in 3 hours, 24 minutes.

The 41-year-old mother of two, who's on the cover of this month's Runner's World, has been running marathons since 2002. And while she's finished her fair share of 26.2-milers—and bagged a bevy of Olympic medals before that—she still worries about getting her 7-year-old daughter Skye and 5-year-old son Spider to the bus stop on time. That and squeezing in date night with husband and former Olympic skier Erik Schlopy.

Sanders talked to us about juggling work and family, sibling rivalry and how moms can get motivated to run their own marathons. After all, she says, you've probably done a 5K in one visit to Costco!

On juggling motherhood...

"The juggling parents that we are, you have to manage expectations. People always talk to me about balance, and that scale is never even. It’s tipping one way, then the other way consistently throughout the day, throughout the week, throughout the month, throughout the year. If on the whole ... if you can look at your year, or your week or your month and it’s fairly even, then I think you’re doing a great job."

When it comes to work and family...

"My best friend from college, whenever I have to make these tough decisions, when it comes to work and family, she’ll say to me, 'Is this decision good for your family?' And I can always sit down and say, 'Money does help my family,' so there are certain decisions I make for jobs because I need this money for my family, and that means I’m going to miss them for a while and I’m going to have to travel quite a bit."

On teaching her kids to be healthy...

"I always say to people, 'The best way to teach your kids is by example.' If you show them, here is how you eat healthy—I’m going to eat the same thing you are—and here is how you exercise—let’s get outside and do something together—it just makes such a big impact.

Can regular people really run marathons?

"Start with a 5K. You know you’ve basically walked a 5K in Costco, or the mall, or Disneyland. You’ve done it already in your life, and you don’t necessarily have to run every step.

On overscheduling...

"I find right now I’m not fighting for my kids to be involved in things. I’m fighting for my kids’ free time. I feel like I have to defend their free time. I’m like a superhero with a cape: Defender of Free Time!"

On sibling rivalry and love...

"I was competitive with [my older brother, Trevor], but I wanted to be just like him. It’s not as if I got started [swimming] to beat him. I really got started in it to keep up with him. I just wanted to be wherever he was. He’s 2 1/2 years older than me, so I thought he walked on water, and I still sorta do. He’s my biggest fan; I’m his biggest fan, and for a long period of time he was my true hero."

Getting to the bus stop...

"When it comes to (being) competitive, [my kids] are literally only competitive with each other. From going to the bus stop and standing in line at the bus stop. To be first in line. They’re never first, by the way, because we’re never on top of it in the morning like that, but they’ve been known to be third or fourth before. That was on a good day."

How she manages me-time and date night...

"Honestly, a lot of it is combining two things. My girlfriends, a lot of our conversations are during runs or exercise. My husband and I will have a date night, and we’ll go out for a workout and then have a nice dinner. We have to stop the madness and the chaos of our schedules and make sure we fit that in."

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