So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

I’m a believer in breastfeeding. However, I avoided pumping as much as possible. One, it was uncomfortable. Two, it took LOTS longer than nursing. Three, it was noisy, even with the quieter pump and my husband thought the sound was hilarious. Four, I hated toting that thing everywhere, even though it was small and purse-like. Five, did I mention it was uncomfortable?

However, when you are a dedicated breastfeeding mom, there are times when pumping for your baby is simply inevitable. I’ve pumped while driving in between clients’ homes,  at all-day volleyball tournaments,  in public restrooms,  at trainings, meetings, and seminars. I even pumped at a Husker football game.

I’VE NEVER PUMPED WHILE RUNNING A HALF MARATHON.

OK, I’ve never run a half marathon either. That’s 13.1 miles, about 10 miles farther than I care to run. However, there are people out there who love to run these longer races. They do it for the challenge, for the times, and for their health.

Meet Anna Young, who took motherhood – and running – to another level. She pumped during the her half marathon. What a breastfeeding beastess! As if running 13.1 miles (even with a few walking breaks) isn’t hard enough, Anna took time to express milk. While on the move. With a hand pump.

Anna ran competitively in high school and then at Arizona State University. Her career as a college athlete ended in 2011. Like many people, she continued to run. Several injuries almost ended her running career but she pushed through. Fast forward several years to pregnancy. While she attempted to run during her pregnancy, an IT band injury prevented it.

After her daughter was born, Anna decided it was time to get back into running. She stated, “I thought signing up for a race would be a good way to commit myself to running more regularly as well as an opportunity to share something I am passionate about with my daughter.”

And they were off. Anna trained by pushing her daughter in a stroller. “I had no idea how much more work that would be,” she stated. Prior to the half marathon, Anna’s training mileage topped out at 6 miles (that includes the pregnancy period, so it was the farthest she ran in over a year). She would often take her daughter running right after nursing but admitted there were times where she had to stop mid-run to nurse.

Anna stated, “One of the reasons I took the pump with me was because I was anticipating the race to take much longer… I thought running the first 6 and walking the last 7.1 could have been very a very likely outcome for me in my race.”

According to a Runner’s World article, the average half marathon time for a woman is around 2 hours 19 minutes. Anna finished in 1 hour 44 minutes! Even though she nursed before the race, and even with her fast pace, Anna was nearing four hours since her last nursing session when she decided it was time to pump. She was planning to step off to the side and express milk to relieve any painful symptoms but then decided it was just as easy to continue moving. Like many of us, she’s mastered multi-tasking!

Anna’s electric pump was too heavy to take along, and because the race was primarily in a canyon, it was difficult for someone to meet her at a halfway point to pump or nurse. So she watched a few videos earlier in the week and hand pumped while she walked. She figures she only took about five minutes total to pump, admitting it was difficult to do because she couldn’t see what she was doing very well while she was continuing to move.

Because the run was in the canyon, there were very few spectators. Anna still had to deal with the other runners. “It’s always a bit of a concern when you breastfeed in public. You hear horror stories and people give you weird looks. But mostly I was just caught up in the competition.” She doesn’t think too many of the other runners even paid attention to her additional task.

Anna wasn’t expecting the publicity from her picture. In fact, she didn’t know a photographer had captured the moment on camera until she was looking through photos afterward. Anna shared the picture with La Leche League and several other breastfeeding sites to promote normalcy for breastfeeding. She stated, “I thought it would be a picture the breastfeeding group could appreciate. I had no idea they would share it so much.” She admits it’s difficult to keep up with the comments, and she’s seen a few negative ones, but “… it’s nice that there are other breastfeeders/ pumping mommas and runners who are standing up for what I did. It still doesn’t feel real to me. I’m overwhelmed by the support and how much this picture has meant to so many.”

 During the first six weeks post-birth, she and her daughter struggled with the art of nursing. She reached out to support groups and found help and encouragement. She also found a strong relationship with her daughter. She wanted to pass on that encouragement and the idea that women do not have to put their hobbies and likes on hold because they have a baby.

So what about the “liquid gold” she pumped during the race? Mothers who’ve pumped know the priceless value of breastmilk, as does any significant other, grandparent, or sibling who happened to spill the “gold.” Did Anna keep it or dump those extra ounces for the last half of the race?

“I kept it. I wasn’t sure if it would still be okay by the time I was ready to give it to my daughter and I planned on nursing her {after the race} but it’s always a little heartbreaking to throw away milk.”

Congrats, Anna, on your little girl, your dedication, and thanks for sharing your story with others to encourage mommas everywhere to follow their hearts and dreams WHILE enjoying being mommas!

Photo used with permission from Anna Young

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.

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