December 3 2014
Meet Rebecca Rusch—a jack of all trades when it comes to endurance sports
800m runner and five-time outdoor champion Alysia Montaño caused a standing ovation as she cruised down the final stretch of her race Thursday night at the Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif.—but she wasn’t winning this time. In fact, her 34-week pregnant belly was leading her to a last-place finish. She was all smiles however, soaking in the supportive crowd and the amazing feeling of carrying her child through her favorite distance on the track. Her performance and story immediately went viral, where she started trending on Twitter as #superwoman. While we place her on the highest shelf of totally inspiring women runners, Alysia remains humble and genuinely surprised at all the attention her pregger self continues to garner. Check out what our favorite 800m mother-runner had to say:
Were there any concerns leading up to the race—and just about training through pregnancy in general?
Like anybody else in the beginning of their pregnancy, especially their first one, you think anything can happen. The greatest advice I’ve gotten from the very beginning was, “exercise please!” With an emphasis on “please.” Please continue what you’re doing. There have been fit woman who exercise every day and then become pregnant and become sedentary. If you think about the chemical imbalance you create, it’s actually a huge stress on your body and your baby. The biggest thing I was advised to do was to continue my activity with obvious modifications to protect my joints and ligaments. But the baby was going to be fine. People have fears about miscarriage in the first trimester—if that were to happen, it would be from a hormonal defect, and it’s a natural way of purging the body of those chromosomes, not something the mother ever did. Whenever I was able to come back and maintain a level of fitness after the first trimester, I knew [my body] would show it to me. And it did—I felt great in the second trimester.
How did it feel physically to carry that extra weight and to run that fast of a time?
I felt amazing—I felt absolutely amazing. At this point, I swim, run and ElliptiGO, so I’m not running every day. My last run day was Monday, so I was really fresh going into the 800m. You have to think about how your body is feeling and how it might feel and plan around it. I felt such an exhilarating amount of joy—having the crowd back me was so unexpected, but I was so excited for it. I was literally laughing [down that final stretch] out of joy, like, oh my gosh, thank you guys [the crowd] so much! My biggest goal was not to be the first person to get lapped in the 800m!
How did it feel emotionally to share those endorphins with your child?
It’s so emotionally fulfilling to share that with your child. It’s something you get to do together, and it’s something you’re going to want to do once you have your baby. You are going to want to find things to do with your baby as they get older, and I’m already starting that trend with us. Not saying that we will run together, but I’m figuring out things that we will bond over. Obviously this is a very natural and automatic way for my kid to involuntarily bond with me!
You’ve been running through the pregnancy – what would you say was the most unexpected craving you’ve had fuel-wise when it comes to prepping and recovering from a workout during your pregnancy?
I didn’t have that many weird of cravings, but I did really, really want orange juice. I didn’t realize it until my husband said, dude, I just bought you orange juice two days ago. I would wake up wanting orange juice or just oranges and go through them like that. I found out that oranges are high in folic acid, which is important to support the growing baby. I heard that a lot of pregnant women want that, but I didn’t know that until I started craving it. But the biggest thing I’ve had is aversions. No raw veggies my first trimester, but then the second trimester was no roasted veggies! By the third trimester, we decided, let’s just smoothie it, and that really worked.
What were your thoughts when you squeezed into that Asics singlet? We think you rocked it, but some running mamas are hesitant to show the belly. What were your thoughts?
I heard a great quote once: “The most sure way to lead a miserable life is to care what other people think.” I didn’t really want to think about that at all. I just wanted to do my thing. I asked Asics for a uniform a few weeks before—I didn’t want it to be too much with just the sports bra without the singlet. By no means do I think the belly shouldn’t be showing; that was just how I felt at that time, to be more modest with my uniform. It’s just funny to me, because our singlets are these bright pink singlets, so I’m thinking, “Here we go. This bright pink singlet and this big old pregnant lady is running the 800m.” I can just imagine what that scene looked like, especially because no one knew I was running! Other than my husband, coach and Asics rep, no one knew until I showed up at nationals in my uniform. I didn’t want to hear the negative; I wanted to show up and be there and be in my zone.
People are calling you superwoman and an inspiration to mamas everywhere, and you’re totally trending on Twitter—do you feel like superwoman?
I don’t think I’m superwoman by any means! I’m so inspired by the woman before me, so many mothering examples be fit in their pregnancy. I’m not the first one. I just happen to be the first one that did it on a national stage. I’m so happy I did it because people can see it. I’m so flattered. I’m more than happy to be that hero and inspiration for our mothers. I’m so happy about all the positive support I’ve gotten; positive to negative, it’s like 90/10. I think we are winning over here for strong women. Kara Goucher, one of our top female marathoners, has absolutely inspired me. LaShinda Demus, who is a mom of twins, came back after her pregnancy and has earned herself a gold and silver medal at the Olympic Games. She has the world record in the 400m hurdles. There are no limitations. This is what we were made to do—it’s not a disease, it’s not an ailment.
How do you envision telling your baby about this race years from now?
Haha! I think I will start with the baby album and show him or her some pictures from the meet, and I will just let them ask the questions.