Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There's No Stopping a Runner

She didn't win Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She didn't finish in the top 10 or qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials. She didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon, she didn't break four hours and she didn't run the race with a visual impairment. But finisher Amber Miller is generating more post-marathon talk than the winners. She didn't just run the marathon, she ran it at nearly 39 weeks pregnant--and then delivered a baby girl, June, later in the evening.

I know, I know. Let your jaw drop. Blink twice and re-read. Furrow your brow. I did.

Your eyes aren't deceiving you, you're reading correctly. Chances are you've probably heard this story at least once already, since it seems to have started locally and then spread like wildfire from New York to Los Angeles. And it spread through some out-of-the-ordinary circles, too--the link was shared by my running friends and by my mommy friends. I should rephrase that: friends who are mommies.

Talk about two sides divided. The runners: amazed. The mommies: Is this mommy runner nuts? Do I not "get" runners?

My answer to the mommies: Miller's not that nuts, and maybe you don't understand how hard runners will push to reach the finish line of a race. I completely understand that there could be health implications and risks involved in running especially when you're that pregnant. I completely understand not getting the mommy angle because I've never held my own child in my arms. And I've only heard how painful running while pregnant can be--and why friends have pressed the pause button on running until after the baby arrives.

But sometimes there's no stopping a runner. We'll toe the start line even when we know we shouldn't. We'll aim to finish the race even when it might be against our best interests. We'll ask the doctor what we can and can't do and then still form our own opinions.

My injury-scarred brain might be justifying this reasoning--after all, it's how I found myself racing (er, traveling to the finish line) on Sunday. I had no business running 26.2 miles less than six months after being diagnosed with a stress fracture that sidelined me for nearly three months (and even then I barely survived 5Ks) and halted any notion of training. I knew I shouldn't pavement pound on a leg that was only starting to feel better after every run and see speed again. And the last doctor's visit ended with a prescription to take it easy and know not to push it when feeling pain. But I couldn't have been the only person marathon running who didn't have a questionable ache or pain, or knew they had sipped a run here or there.

Pregnancy and injury aren't exactly similar beyond requiring doctor's check-ups, but my brain ranks them on the same scale in terms of sports participation. Both slow you down, usually meaning a combination of running and walking. Both potentially could keep you from starting and finishing a race, yet you'll try anyway.

In Miller's defense:
  • She wasn't a first-time marathoner. She said this was her eighth marathon.
  • She had been running frequently while pregnant.
  • She had already run two marathons while pregnant, one while pregnant with big brother Caleb, and another earlier this year while 17 weeks pregnant with June.
  • Her doctor gave her the thumbs up to participate--or at least half of the race, according to the articles. As for how other doctors in the field might treat that OK, I don't know, but one yes would be enough for me to say that I'd run, walk, shuffle, crawl my way to the finish line.
  • She knew that she might not finish the race, but at least she'd start it (or that's the impression I got from hearing her interview).
  • She's not the first person to work out and then go into labor (or deliver) shortly after. An old co-worker taught Spinning classes up until the day she gave birth to her second daughter.
  • She's also not the first person to participate in the Chicago Marathon while pregnant and ready to pop (for lack of a better phrase). There was an 8-months-pregnant who completed the race a few years ago--2008, if memory serves me correct--she just didn't go into labor until a few weeks later. The only problem is I can't prove it in my internet searches beyond a blog comment; nothing is turning up at the Chicago Tribune (where I swear I read the story after it happened), I don't think I saved the link, and Google won't turn it up with my search terms.
  • Like most of the other 45,000 runners, she registered for the marathon in February before it closed to general registration. She could have been in the "need to confirm pregnancy with doctor" phase?
  • And as she said, she paid for the entry (and it's not transferable nor refundable), including the shirt and medal, so she may as well try to reach the finish. I know I would, and not just for the swag. That 10-9-11 shirt would be even more special now that it's someone's birthday suit.
    What do you think? Are you on team runner (she's amazing) or team mommy (she's crazy)? Have you found yourself starting a race even when you weren't in prime condition?

    Photo grabbed from max_thinks_sees at flickr, video grabbed from today.com.

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