Marathon Runner Gives Birth After Finishing Race

FOX Chicago News
Amber Miller felt contractions just minutes after crossing the finish line at the Chicago Marathon. A few hours later, the suburban Chicago woman — who slogged her way through 26.2 miles while nearly 39 weeks pregnant — delivered a healthy baby girl.

“For me, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was running up until that point anyway,” Miller told The Associated Press in an interview from the hospital where she was recovering Monday. “I am crazy about running.”

Sunday’s marathon was the eighth for the 27-year-old, who has been running for more than a dozen years. She found out she was pregnant with her second child days after signing up for the Chicago race and decided to play it by ear on whether or not she would run.

When the baby hadn’t been born by Sunday, she got clearance from her doctor to run half. She completed it with a with a half-run half-walk approach, drinking lots of fluids and eating a lot along the way. She finished in 6:25:50, much slower than her usual marathon time, but still content.

“Lots of people were cheering me on: `Go pregnant lady!”‘ she said. “I was expecting some negative comments. I don’t remember anything.”

It was not Miller’s first marathon while pregnant.

In May, the Westchester woman ran the Wisconsin Marathon in 4:23:07 while 17 weeks pregnant with her daughter. In 2009, she ran the Indianapolis Marathon in 4:30:27 while she was 18 weeks pregnant with her son Caleb, who’s 1.

Elite runners have trained while pregnant, but doctors say Miller is a rarity. She was 38 weeks and five days pregnant. Full-term is typically defined as 40 weeks.

Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe ran 14 miles a day while pregnant and resumed training weeks after the birth of her first child. She won the New York City Marathon in 2007 just 10 months after delivery. American marathoner Kara Goucher, who gave birth to her son last year, also trained while pregnant, running 80 miles a week at times.

“It’s probably the rare woman who is in good enough shape to run a marathon while pregnant. It’s probably the exception more than the rule,” said Dr. Priya Rajan, an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Medical guidelines generally say that if a woman was a runner and healthy before she got pregnant, running during pregnancy is fine. Doctors even recommend exercise for low-risk pregnancies. However, medical experts agree that pregnancy is not the time to begin any exercise endeavors, such as starting marathon training for the first time. For pregnant runners, close monitoring by a doctor is recommended.

Miller who was looking forward to getting rest, said she the only effects she felt from the marathon, which she finished around 3:30 p.m., were blisters on her feet. She was just happy to see her daughter June, who was born at 10:29 p.m. at 7 pounds, 13 ounces with no complications.

Why Run and Why Women Run?

According to Running USA, an organization that tracks national trends, the number of women who finished a running race soared from 791,000 in 1987 to 4.4 million in 2007. Why the attraction?

In a poll of 8,000 runners by the same organization, women said they run to sculpt a toned physique, stave off stress, and achieve personal goals. And those are just a few of running’s many benefits.

But perhaps what draws people to the sport more than anything is that everyone can do it. It doesn’t matter how tall, short, fat or skinny you are.  You don’t need special skills, pricey gear, athletic ability, or even good genes.  All running requires is a pair of shoes and a little determination.  Still, it can be intimidating.

It takes effort to  move your body weight which is why running burns more calories per minute than pretty much any other exercise.   The average 140-pound woman who runs at a 10-minute mile pace for an hour burns 512 calories. Compare that to an hour spent doing Pilates (384 calories), walking (225 calories), or swimming (448 calories). Torching all those calories sheds body fat to reveal the lean muscle below. So not only do runners have enviable legs, but their entire bodies look trim and toned.

Take up running and you’ll get benefits beyond just looking good, you will also live longer and stay healthier. Researchers at Stanford University discovered that regular runners have a 39 percent lower risk of dying an early death compared with healthy adults of the same age. “Virtually every system in your body benefits from running,” says Christine Hinton, a running coach in Crofton, Maryland. Study after study shows that running can help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and even cancer. Most recently, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that running is as good a bone-builder as strength training.

In addition to giving you a physical edge, running improves your mental health too.  A 2008 study found that areas in the brain associated with mood are flooded with endorphins, the feel-good hormones  after exercise. This is especially true with running. “When you run, it’s just you, your body, and the environment,” says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph. D., a sports psychology consultant and assistant professor of athletic coaching at West Virginia University. Your arms, legs, and breathing fall into a rhythm that eventually lulls your brain into a meditative “no-stress zone” in which bills, boyfriends, and bosses fade away.

Despite its many advantages, running has its share of critics who say the pounding ruins your knees, leads to chronic back pain, and causes wrinkles. But experts say the rewards of running far outweigh the risks.  As you run if you pay attention to your body and the aches you can prevent injures by taking it easy or running on a softer terrain.   A recent review in the Journal of Anatomy found that running does not increase your risk of osteoarthritis, the cartilage decay that causes pain and inflammation in hip and knee joints.  Nor does it wreck your back, according to a research review in the Southern Medical Journal. Researchers suggest that because running builds stronger muscles and ligaments, it actually has a protective effect on these areas.

As for whether all that pavement pounding causes gravity to take its toll, resulting in sagging, wrinkled skin, “it’s a myth,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist in Darien, Connecticut. “The reason runners can sometimes appear weathered is that they’re thinner — low body fat makes fine lines more visible — and they’re out in the sun more.” Slather on a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 half an hour before your run to avoid the leathery look.  Personally I have met tons of runners that you would never guess their age,  the only way you know their age is when they walk up to get their award.

Kathrine Switzer Helped Women Run Marathons

Then: Hopkinton, Mass., April 19, 1967 – A girl listed as “K. Switzer of Syracuse” found herself about to be thrown out of the all-male Boston Marathon. But companion Thomas Miller of Syracuse block and tossed the race official out of the running instead. The picture sequence shows Jock Semple, official, moving in to intercept Miss Switzer then being bounced himself by Miller. Photos by Harry Trask of Boston Traveler.

Now: The “Boston Incident” of 1967 was the spark that ignited the woman’s running revolution. Kathrine Switzer went on to finish the 1967 Boston Marathon in 4 hours 20 minutes, despite being disqualified by Jock Semple. She was inspired by the incident, however, to go on to run 35 marathons, including 8 Boston Marathons. She won the 1974 New York City Marathon.She ran a personal best in 1975 of 2 hours, 51 minutes. She also created the Avon International Running Circuit, a global series of women’s running events in 25 countries, involving over one million women.

Any use of this photo whatsoever must be credited to AP/Wideworld Photo.