U.S. elite track runner Stephanie Bruce is quickly becoming one of the top role models for female runners– especially those who are coupling their hobby of running with the role of motherhood.
Bruce, 32, is a mother of two and a runner for Oiselle and Hoka One One who has just run an Olympic qualifying time in the 10K ahead of the Rio Olympics. She has also unintentionally become one voice in the running community that many look up to. That’s because when talking about motherhood and body image issues as they relate to running, she says it like it is.
This isn’t the first time Bruce has made headlines for being an incredible mom/runner. Last year, she won a half-marathon while 20 weeks pregnant.
Her recently increased popularity started with an Instagram picture that Bruce posted just a few weeks ago. Bruce is the mother of two small children– one born just six months ago. As women who have had a baby would know, pregnancy, giving birth and dealing with the post-partum body really takes its toll. The body changes and oftentimes, those changes can be a little jarring. That’s how this elite athlete was feeling when she stepped onto the track to do a workout recently. So she took a photo and opened up about it.
Though she had a new pair of spikes and a body fit enough to take her through a fast workout, her focus was on her post-baby belly. So she took a picture of her stretch marks and wrote a post saying she knows her stretch marks are here to stay and her abs need strengthening again but her legs are powerful and ready to run anyway.
The image went viral and many women who could relate, wrote to Bruce about how much they identified with those feelings. Getting back to running after having a baby isn’t easy– even for the elites.
After seeing the popularity of her picture, Bruce wrote a blog post about it.
“The first thing I saw was my stomach,” writes the runner. “In that moment I felt years of self image, self confidence, mental and physical changes of having two kids, putting my career on hold,and how the world viewed postpartum bodies all roll into one thought: how many other women see what I see and either feel embarrassed, self conscious, disgust, or confusion?”
Judging by the reaction on social media, the answer to her question is that many, many women feel this way.
In her post, Bruce also goes on to acknowledge that thing that many women who have been through pregnancy don’t want to say: dealing with body issues after giving birth is “complicated” and kind of a “hot mess” at times. Returning to running is tough and that’s a sign of strength– not weakness.
“My message through all of this is own the skin you live in, don’t be ashamed, support others, don’t body shame, know you’re not alone, and flaunt what you have,” Bruce writes adding that being a parent is a blessing “but there are also days it feels like kids suck the life out of you and that’s OK to admit.”
A photo posted by Stephanie Rothstein Bruce (@stephrothstein) on
Perhaps Bruce has become the ideal role model not only because of her blunt honesty, but also because of her ability to run her absolute best even after having children. Though she had her two kids within the span of 15 months, six months after having her last baby, she ran the 10,000m at the Stanford University Invitational meet (over April 1-2) finishing in 32:14– under the Olympic standard.
If that’s not worthy enough of applause, perhaps getting the haters to swallow their words is. On a LetsRun.com forum one runner discussing Bruce’s accomplishments admitted to being wrong. They commented the following:
“I’ve never met her but based on her social media, I thought Stephanie Bruce was just hanging out the last two years having kids and pretending to be an elite. Pretty incredible finish and huge achievement six months after having a kid. I’ll take my hat off to that and stuff it in my mouth.”
— stephRothsteinBruce (@Steph_Rothstein) April 2, 2016