In the sphere of elite athletics, choosing to have a child can seem like a career-ending decision. While some women decide to wait until retirement to start a family, there have been many who have continued their competitive careers long after childbirth. Among the most prolific examples of this is Serena Williams, who has competed in numerous Grand Slams and singles tennis tournaments since the birth of her baby girl. In the world of running, we have had the opportunity to watch many of the sport’s best athletes have a child, only to return to the track or road even stronger than before. This list, while by no means complete, includes some of the most inspiring post-pregnancy comebacks, and is our ode to running moms everywhere.
It only seems right to include the queen of distance running as the first entry on our list. Just nine months after giving birth to her first child, a baby girl named Isla, Radcliffe won the New York City Marathon. The following year, in 2008, she represented Great Britain at her fourth Olympic Games, and won the New York City Marathon for the second year in a row.
Not only is Kiplagat the mother of five children (two biological, three adopted), she is also a policewoman in her hometown, Iten, Kenya. She has won three World Marathon Majors (the New York City Marathon, London Marathon and Boston Marathon), and two of her children were at the finish line for her victory in Boston in 2017. Despite her busy home life, she has held her place in the world of elite marathoning and placed 2nd in the Boston Marathon in 2019.
Despite being widely regarded as one of the greatest sprinters of all time, many expected that Fraser-Pryce would retire after the birth of her son, Zyon, in 2017. She returned to the track nine months later, and in the summer of 2018 traveled to several Diamond League meets while breastfeeding. In 2019, at 32, she won the 100m at the world championships, making her the oldest female sprinter to win a world title in the 100m, as well as the first mother to do so in 24 years.
Of course, we couldn’t have a list about elite moms without mentioning Canadian golden girl Melissa Bishop-Nriagu. After giving birth to a baby girl in 2018, she managed to open her 2019 season with a 1,500m personal best of 4:09.36, then ran a 2:01.10 800m at the Guelph Inferno, setting a meet record. She later had to call her season due to injury, but has since returned to the track with a win in Michigan, as she trains toward the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.
After giving birth to her son in 2010, Goucher returned to competition in January 2011, finishing second at the Arizona Half-Marathon. She went on to several other podium finishes and set a personal best at the 2011 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:24:52. In 2012, she competed at the London Olympics, and in 2019 she took a podium spot in her first 50K race at the North Face Endurance Challenge Championships.
Our second Canadian on the list, the Sarnia, Ont. native gave birth to a baby boy in 2014. She returned to training only three months later, and competed in the 1,500m at the 2016 Olympics in Rio .
Elmore made her first Olympic team in 2004, and retired from professional running in 2012. Since then, she’s had two children, and has returned to the sport in a remarkable way. In 2019, she won the Canadian half-marathon championships, ran a marathon debut in 2:32, only to smash that time a year later to become the Canadian marathon record-holder with a time of 2:24:50, all but guaranteeing her a spot on the Olympic team for Tokyo.
Affectionately known as Canada’s Marathon Mom, this Brantford, Ont. runner’s role as the mother to three kids has not stopped her from having a successful running career. In fact, she says being a mom has made her a better runner. 13 months after her third child was born, she ran 2:32 at the Rotterdam Marathon, a seven-minute improvement of her previous personal best from 2010. That was in 2012, and three years later she lowered her PB further to 2:29, and qualified for the 2016 Olympic team. in 2018, she placed third at the Boston Marathon, and since then has won several races in the master’s division.
In 2014, the American middle-distance runner shocked and impressed the running community when she competed at the U.S. National Championships while 34 weeks pregnant. She did the same thing in 2017, this time competing while five months pregnant, and snagged the silver medal at the Pan Am Games between pregnancies in 2015.
Nine months after giving birth to her second child, American distance runner Stephanie Bruce competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 10,000m. While that race did not go as well as she hoped, she has continued to compete, winning the USATF 10K road championships in 2018 and finishing third in the 10,000m at the U.S. Track and Field Championships that same year. More recently, Bruce ran in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, finishing sixth in a time of 2:29:11.
Just nine months after giving birth to her baby girl, Felix, one of the most decorated athletes in Track and Field, qualified for her 13th World Championships in 2019. A few months earlier she had made headlines for being openly critical about her sponsor, Nike, for not supporting women athletes who choose to start a family, and then testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on the maternal mortality crisis. She has since switched sponsors and signed with apparel brand Athleta in August 2019.
Ali had her second baby in 2018 with Canadian sprinter Andre DeGrasse, and came back to place second in the 100m hurdles at the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships, securing her spot on the American world championship team.
Honorable mention: Aliphine Tuliamuk
The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials winner announced the arrival of her baby girl in January, and is now training for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. Of course, she hasn’t competed yet since giving birth, but we are excited to see what Tuliamuk will do at the Olympics this summer.