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SALT LAKE CITY — A young Utah mother decided she was going to run her first half marathon post baby, even if it meant bringing her breast pump along for the ride.
Anna Young has been running competitively since high school, but in recent years, she’s had to step back due to injury. She’d planned to run the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon last year, but an IT band injury forced her to defer her entry until 2016.
A lot can change in a year, and when she received an email reminder back in June about this year’s September race, she was a new mom to a baby girl — a fact that would make training a bit more complicated.
Young — who’d tried to stay active during pregnancy but suffered from sciatic pain — decided she was up for the challenge.
“I thought it would be a good way for me to get active again and share something I’m passionate about with my daughter,” Young said.
So she purchased a good jogging stroller and started slow.
“We started off on walks when she was about 3 months old,” Young said. “Usually I would eat and get changed, feed her and make sure she had a clean diaper and then we’d head out for a run.”
As race day drew near, Young realized that the time it would take to run the full 13.1 miles might be an issue since she was breastfeeding. So she decided to pack her breast pump on race day, hoping she’d be able to make it work.
About 8 miles into the race, Young slowed to a walk and pulled out her pump.
“When I had to pump I was nervous, but I felt like I was running so well that I wanted to keep progressing on the course,” she said. “One other woman in the race did notice and cheered me on because she could tell what I was doing and that gave me a little more confidence.”
Young didn’t realize it until later, but the race photographer snapped an image of her using her breast pump mid-race. She loved the image so much that she decided to share it on the Occupy Breastfeeding Facebook page — a message that one needn’t give up one passion to pursue another.
“Yesterday I ran a half marathon at five months postpartum,” she wrote. “I nursed my daughter before I left my house, pumped after running the first 8 miles and nursed her after I made it past the finish line. This group and Le Leche League motivated me to find a way to run my race and take care of my daughter.”
It seems her message has resonated with more than just a few people — as of Saturday, the photo had garnered more than 10,000 reactions, hundreds of comments and 1,800 shares. Pretty shocking for a mom who almost deleted the photo after she posted it.
“I never in my wildest dreams imagined my photo would gain so much attention,” she said. “I’ve had a few mothers reach out to me personally to say that they thought they would have to put off running until after they’ve weaned their babies, and it touches my heart to know I’ve made an impact in their lives for the better.”
Young credits organizations like La Leche League and Occupy Breastfeeding to helping her through the first few difficult months. Her daughter had a tongue and lip tie, and Young said she was tempted to give up.
“I wouldn’t ever want another mother to suffer through that and not know where to turn for help,” she said. “But that struggle has made me more passionate and grateful to be able to breastfeed my daughter.”
Young says she hopes her story will inspire other moms to do what makes them happy.
“Running the race in general was a thrilling experience,” she said. “I felt it was something my daughter and family could be proud of me for doing. I’m glad it has brought awareness to breastfeeding and opened up conversations about motherhood and what women are capable of.”