In 1982, elite runner Ingrid Kristiansen ran a 2:33 marathon. For many this would be a good race but for her she wondered why it was slow. While investigating why it was (for her) so slow, she discovered that she was four months pregnant. Four months after giving birth, she won the Houston Marathon in 2:27 and three months later set the women’s world record in the London Marathon in 2:21. Most would wonder how she didn’t know she was pregnant but this is not uncommon in highly trained athletes.
At 5’6″ and 106 pounds, she trained 100 hilly miles per week. This high level of training lead amenorrhea, the infrequent menstrual periods experienced by many gymnasts, ballet dancers and distance runners. For years she had been used to going months without a period. Thus, in 1983, she was ripe for the surprise of her life.
“In January I won the Houston Marathon,” says Kristiansen. “I thought I recovered well, but I got beat by some runners I really shouldn’t have lost to in 10-and 15-kilometer road races.” Then she finished 35th in the world cross-country race in Gateshead, England, an event in which she had been sixth the year before.
Kristiansen’s coach, Johan Kaggestad, was confused. “My wife said, ‘She must be pregnant. Ask her.’ It was Ingrid’s birthday and she was miserable, so I didn’t. But the next day on the plane I brought it up, and she laughed and said, ‘No, no.’ But I said maybe it would be good to take a test.” A week passed. “I answered the phone, and she was crying, not only that she was pregnant, but that she was five months pregnant.”
The tears were of shock, not dismay. She wanted a baby, but she wanted to run, too. Kristiansen trained as much as she could before the birth. “When she got so round she couldn’t run, she swam and biked and walked for hours,” said Kaggestad. In effect she had the luxury of a four-month pregnancy.
She finished fourth in the Woman’s Olympic Marathon in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Coming from Norway, where it is cold for months, she was known for training on the treadmill. She won several big marathons wins on her running resume including New york, Chicago, Boston twice, London a record four times, Stockholm three times and Houston two times.
She started her athletic career as a National ranked cross-country skier. She was the European Juniors champion in 1974 and won eight Norwegian Championships in the relay. This goes to show a person doesn’t have to start out as a runner to become a fast one.