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Olympic Start Lines Will Be Toed by Mothers



30% of the top 10 NYC Marathon finishers (female) were mothers.

30% of the top 10 NYC Marathon finishers (female) from the US were mothers.

A quarter of the sub 2:26 marathons run this year were by women who've given birth.


You could probably add 10 more bullet points arguing the obvious point.


The times, they are a' changing. Not even ten years ago, it was all but unthinkable that a mother who'd put her body through childbirth could possibly make waves again on the track or in a major race.


Some say the technology has increased. Shoes let us recover quicker, and give our joints a bit more cushion to bounce back with.


Some say healthcare has improved. Childbirth isn't quite as traumatic to the body as it has been, and recovery is facilitated more effectively with medical advancement.


While these improvements can't be overlooked, I see them as single-digit-percentage improvements. We may have missed out on some significant benefits from sub-par technologies, but that doesn't completely explain our lack of postpartum competitiveness.


I think the most likely reason of all may have been that our hearts were two sizes too small. #grinch


The Women Who Inspired Me


In my first month of pregnancy, I indoctrinated myself with every word these four women had to say. I read interview after interview - dying to know if this ability to train through pregnancy was due to their elite-of-elite status, or whether it was generalizable to me.


Not only did these women charge 80-mile weeks through pregnancy, they had healthy (in some cases, big) babies.


In spite of the info, I had many panic-ridden conversations with my mom after runs that "felt weird" where she instilled within me a confidence that I knew my body better than anyone in the world.


She advised (based on her own ### pregnancies) that a body will miscarry whether or not there was running involved. "The baby is protected," she'd remind me every few days, always erring on the side of confidence, not caution.


I think a pregnant runner has to wake up each day of her first pregnancy and punch her lizard brain in the face. Fear will scream "CAUTION! DAMAGE!' but it's just not true most of the time.


When the lizard brain yells "scary," and the higher brain calculates the opportunity is larger than the potential risk, take the leap.


Challenge reality. The history books aren't always right. If these women can do what they did, why can't you?


The next Olympic Village: free condoms and diapers?

Leading into this next Olympics, and with Olympic Trials qualifications already being hit by many pro runners, here are some of the pro runners in the middle/long distance category currently punching their lizard brains in the face, and who've announced pregnancies or delivered babies in 2022:

  • Kellyn Taylor -17:14 in the NYC 5k at 32 weeks pregnant (5:34/mile average), in 2018 was the seventh fastest US woman marathoner ever

  • Molly Huddle - 2x Olympian, set two American records in the 5k and in the 10k

  • Marisa Howard - Second at the 2019 PanAm Games in the Steeplechase

  • Genevieve Lacaze - Steeplechase Australian national record holder with a 9.14.28

  • Kate Grace - 800m finalist at the 2016 Olympics

  • Elie Purrier - Holds the American record for the indoor mile (4:16.85) and 2 mile (9:10.28)

  • Brenda Martinez - 2013 World Championship silver medalist. Previous WR holder for the Distance Medley Relay

  • Gwen Jorgenson - 2x Olympian (triathlon), and 2014 and '15 World Triathlon Series champion - converted to pro running

  • Gesa Krause - 2x bronze medals at World Championships (Steeplechase), World record holder (2k steeplechase), and German national record holder

These women are all sooooo bad, and I hope they make you badder, too.


If you know any more than this list, please send them my way. I want all mothers to get credit.


Runner mothers who are candidates for the next Olympics

In addition to this list, there are mothers who have been there, done that, and still shine bright like diamonds years later.

  • Keira D'Amato - Owned the American record for the marathon earlier this year

  • Sarah Hall - third fastest female marathoner in the country, second fastest half-marathoner

  • Aliphine Tuliamuk - Won the Olympic Trials marathon, had a baby, then competed at the Olympics 6 months later

  • Steph Bruce - 3rd at 2018 USA Cross Country Champs, 10th at NYC Marathon

  • Sarah Vaughn - winner of 2021 CIM (after 4 kids RUKIDDING), 7th at 2022 Chicago marathon

  • Lauren Goss - 2nd at 2022 CIM, left triathlon to come crush running, too.


I asked some of them questions about pregnancy/motherhood and how their running career has been affected. Here are some of their responses.


Molly Huddle


Question: What were one or two things (advice, practices, exercises, routines, recovery habits, etc.) you employed during pregnancy that seemed to make a world of difference?

Answer:

"I thought it made a big difference to get a strength program from a personal trainer who specializes in pregnancy and postpartum issues. I wanted to focus on things that would support the changes in my hips and core. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as much accomplished as far as injury prevention/pelvic floor strength, etc., and would have just back squatted too much and hurt myself or something like that! Also, I liked sticking to the track or treadmill for a lot of the runs and workouts b/c if anything bothered me I could just walk across the infield and be done, or downgrade the workout and not be in the middle of nowhere - plus there were always people around!"



Question: What were your perceptions/fears of pregnancy and motherhood (in the context of your running career) before baby, and how were they answered?

Answer:

"I’d say my perception of motherhood as an athlete has changed a lot since my friends and peers in the sport have shown me what it can look like. I used to think it was a career killer, because your body changed so much and you needed so much time off. Plus, there was a complete lack of support, lack of knowledge on how to physically come back, and a pervasive narrative that moms aren’t athletic or competitive. For whatever reason, women who were succeeding at this weren’t spotlighted in a way that reached me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have kids because I had so many dreams in the sport and it seemed at odds with that. But once I saw what it could look like up close from women who I relate to, I saw how it could work, and it made me realize I could do it. Then Dream Maternity happened and I was happy to know I didn’t have to get ‘fired’ for it, which was nice. I feel a lot more connected to the running community because of the relatability of managing a family with competitive goals now."


Marisa Howard


Question: What were one or two things (advice, practices, exercises, routines, recovery habits, etc.) you employed during pregnancy that seemed to make a world of difference?

Answer:

"TAKE IT SLOW! Really take recovery serious the first 6 weeks. If you do that, you will be in a much better spot in 6 months than if you didn’t take the time earlier. Also, see a pelvic floor PT."


Genevieve Lacaze


Question: How did finding out you were going to be a mother change the way you see running?

Answer:

"It gave me so much more purpose outside of my own personal goals. There was immediately a bigger picture in my life and the pressure or expectation I originally felt with running disappeared."


Question: There’s at least one piece of wisdom we all glean from getting further from our running dreams with each month of pregnancy while still maintaining faith in those dreams. What was that bit of wisdom for you?

Answer:

"Any time I felt far from my dreams I would think 'there will always be time to get fit and strong, but right now my priority is growing this baby and staying healthy for them'.”


Question: If you could give one piece of advice for running during pregnancy, what would it be?

Answer:

"Go off feel and don’t compare yourself to others. Every body is designed differently and will carry a baby differently. What one person may be able to do while pregnant could be so different from what you feel is comfortable for you. Only do what your body allows you to."


Kellyn Taylor


Question: What were one or two things (advice, practices, exercises, routines, recovery habits, etc.) you employed during pregnancy that seemed to make a world of difference?

Answer:

"One piece of advice of running during pregnancy is to let go of all expectations. Some days you will feel great and others you will feel like complete garbage. I go into each day with an idea of what I’d like to do or accomplish and then attempt and modify as needed. Sometimes the day goes off just as planned. Sometimes it’s better than expected and then sometimes it’s a complete wash. As I’ve gotten further along I see any day that I can be active as a good day. This could be running a couple of miles slowly, doing a workout, or cross training in any form."

Question: What were your perceptions/fears of pregnancy and motherhood (in the context of your running career) before baby, and how were they answered?

Answer:

"I think that these perceptions and fears we have in relations to our careers spans across all avenues of work for women. Whether you're in an office or running as fast as you possibly can the perception is that you can’t possibly be pregnant and then a mother while also being proficient at your job. I think that acceptance with pregnancy and motherhood in the workplace is becoming more commonplace but still needs work. One of my first thoughts when finding out I was pregnant was what is this going to do to my career and contract? I have been a part of a great company, Hoka, for the last 7 years and they have treated me well but the fear of uncertainty still crept in my head. Telling the company and my coaches was one of the most nerve wracking parts of my pregnancy. Fortunately, all is well thanks to the many women before me who have started to make having families and continuing your career after more commonplace.


"In addition to obvious fears of sponsorship support there is also the fear of getting back to where you once were. With my first daughter I was young, fresh out of college and hadn’t yet started my professional running journey. There were no expectations other than the ones that I placed upon myself. This time I am much older and as my career gets closer to the end I can’t help but wonder if I’ll get back to where I was and then to where I want to be. Patience, faith in the process and belief that things are going to work out are what I’m betting on. Every mothers journey is different. I choose to go into both pregnancy and motherhood with a naive optimism that everything will work out as I plan. If it actually does, great, and if it doesn’t then I adjust as needed…that’s life."


What does all this say about athletic motherhood?

After I ran a 5:25 mile at 9-months pregnant I got a lot of (let's be honest, algorithm-driven) attention and feedback.


One comment on Reddit made me laugh and think at the same time:

When Roger Banister broke the 4-min-mile barrier, people were astounded, and somehow all at once more able to do it themselves. I am absolutely not comparing myself to Roger Banister - but I am comparing the accomplishments of these women above to his.


What have women been capable of all along? What enormous heroines have lived in the past as sleeper cells with their own unbelievable achievements that couldn't be measured or given attention?


What stories have we been telling ourselves for generations that are built on a false paradigm, just waiting to be shattered?


Look, I want to be clear: my point is not to encourage any would-be mother to start doing crazy things during pregnancy, or to shame herself for not "pushing reality" in the way these women do. IT IS CRAZY ENOUGH THAT YOU GROW AND RAISE A CHILD.


My point is that motherhood is not martyrdom. You do not have to accept a reality that paints you as a leaky bladder whose sole personal value comes from how many times your kid didn't bite another kid today.


What is the story you hope to leave with your children, future generations, and the rest of us?


I fully believe we'll see a lot of change in the next decade on the mother-athlete front. Because of the women who question 'reality,' we're all more certain than ever in history that you can


Have Kids and Dreams.

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