Marathon Runner, Marathon Labor

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The Chicago Marathon is one of the great races in the United States, drawing tens of thousands of runners each year. During the 2011 Chicago Marathon, their numbers almost increased by one in the middle of the race.

Experienced marathoner Amber Miller got permission from her physician to show up at the starting line on Sunday morning. Though she has finished marathons by running every step, she planned to run a little bit and walk a little bit before taking a shortcut to get to the finish line of Chicago’s 26.2 mile race.

Joined by her husband, she ran the first half of the race and then walked the second half. Her contractions started part way through the course. After she crossed the finish line, they grabbed a bite to eat and headed on over to the hospital. Several hours later, she welcomed her second child, a girl, into the world.

Miller and her husband completed the course in six and a half hours, more than three hours slower than her typical marathon race pace when she runs the full 26.2 mile distance.

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The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends that low risk women who have been exercising continue to exercise through their pregnancies. Miller continued to run throughout her pregnancy, maintaining her previous base of fitness. She followed the advice of her physician, who was familiar with her particular medical history and pregnancy.

Miller was also very close to her due date, and gave birth to a healthy 7 lb. 13 oz. baby. Women who are at risk of preterm labor or women whose babies are not growing well should not undertake a physical challenge as demanding as a marathon.

Pregnant women should listen to their bodies when they exercise. They should be careful to drink plenty of fluids and maintain an intensity level during which they can carry on a conversation if necessary. Pregnant women who are more than three weeks away from their due dates and who notice regular painful contractions when exercising should stop exercising, rest and notify their doctor or midwife.

Pregnant women who are in their second and third trimesters should also avoid exercises that call for them to lie flat on their backs, as the weight of the uterus and baby can interfere with proper blood flow in their bodies.

Miller received a variety of reactions from spectators and other runners as she completed her marathon. Since bystanders are not aware of a woman’s health and wellness, the best thing for observers to do is offer support, and perhaps a cup of water. Healthy fit mothers are the first step to healthy fit families.

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