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British mom pumps breast milk while running 100-km race—and wins

Combining both challenges at the recent Race to the Stones was "hard" but worth it, says ultrarunner and coach Sophie Carter

Sophie Carter Photo by: Photo: Clive T. Jones/Flickr

A 43-year-old mother of five came in first at the recent 100-kilometre Race to the Stones in southern England, a tough feat made all the more challenging by the fact she was pumping breast milk for her eight-month-old son while tackling the course.

Sophie Carter
of Oxford ran the July 8 ultramarathon between the villages of Lewknor and Avebury on what is billed as one of Britain’s oldest paths in nine hours, 50 minutes and 17 seconds, placing first among 279 runners in the women’s category and ninth overall in a field of 874 competitors. While hustling to maintain her lead in the field, Carter was expressing milk with the help of a hands-free pump. She told Yahoo Style U.K. that, unlike a manual pump that would have required her to stop running to operate it, the automatic pump allowed her to stay on the go and hand off the containers of milk to her partner as she progressed along the course.

This isn’t the first time Carter has blown past the competition while balancing the challenges and demands of motherhood at the Race to the Stones (so named as the course leads to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avebury Henge and Stone Circles). The runner and personal coach, who began competing in marathons at age 25 and ran her first ultra in 2017, finished second and placed in the overall top 10 at last year’s 100-km event at 20 weeks pregnant.

She told Yahoo Style U.K. that pregnancy and breastfeeding present unique challenges during competition. “When I was running pregnant, I felt like my body was being nourished and fed well because it was growing the baby,” she said. “Running while breastfeeding felt harder, ironically, because I was giving my resources to feed my baby. I had to drink a lot more and be more conscious of hydrating. With a new baby, you’re getting a lot less sleep because you’re up at night feeding, and that made it harder too.”

Carter says she hasn’t faced any negative reaction over her decision to express milk while running. “Everyone has just been like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I don’t know how you did it’ … I’ve shown that even if you want to go out and do just a 5K or a half marathon, you’re not going to be hindered whatsoever if you’ve got a baby to feed or you’re pregnant.”

In 2018, Sophie Power of Guildford, England, made headlines when a photo of her breastfeeding her three-year-old son at the 170-km Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) went viral.

Calgary Marathon introduces pregnancy deferral, child care for 2023

The following year, fellow British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win the 431-km Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way from Edale, England, to Kirk Yetholm, Scotland, famously shattering the overall course record while expressing breast milk for her baby at aid stations along the route.

Bolstered by these runners’ efforts, several races, including UTMB, the London Marathon and the Calgary Marathon have recently introduced new policies aimed at supporting mothers and pregnant athletes.

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