On Saturday Melissa Bishop-Nriagu ran her first track race in nearly two years, and her first race since giving birth to her daughter Corinne. She opened her 2019 outdoor season with a 1,500m personal best of 4:09.36 – an amazing way to start her first season post-baby.
Bishop credits her personal best to two things: athletic experience and motherhood. “I’ve been running for so long. I know the work that needs to be put in, I know where my body needs to be. But having a baby and being a mom has really helped my sporting career. I do whatever I have to do for workout or training and when it’s done I leave it all on the track. Being able to separate home life and my track career has actually really helped my running.”
The 800m Olympic finalist’s return to running was actually much quicker than anticipated. “While I was pregnant I had several athletic women tell me that I would be shocked at how quickly I came back. If you’ve been physically active before pregnancy it’s usually easier to become physically active again. My body knew what it wanted to do.”
While Bishop’s return to elite track and field came quicker than anticipated, it was by no means easy. “It was really hard, it’s still really hard. I wasn’t able to run from 20 weeks into my pregnancy onward and I had to cross-train a ton.” But Bishop says the smartest thing she did while returning to sport was take her time. “I took the extra time to get fit again. I thought I might be able to have an indoor season but that didn’t end up happening. I needed to be sure my body could handle the load of running, so we didn’t rush anything.”
The runner also credits her excellent support team with her quick recovery. “The Stellingwerffs were an invaluable resource for me. Both Trent and Hilary [Stellingwerff] were able to give me benchmarks of what I could expect while coming back, the physiological differences I would see and the differences I would see in my day-to-day personal life. They leveled my expectations.” Trent is a physiologist and Hilary is a coach and former 1,500m runner who made her own return to running from pregnancy to make a second Olympics.
Up next for Bishop is the Inferno in Guelph, Ont. and the Harry Jerome Classic in Burnaby, B.C. Bishop’s main goal remains Tokyo 2020. “I need to reestablish myself and put some times down in order to be invited to the big meets. This summer, racing will be more local than I’m used to but that’s fine. My main goal isn’t this summer, it’s 2020.”