Alysia Montano had fans on their feet by the time she completed her 800-meter race at the U.S. Championships. The very pregnant Olympian crossed the finish line dead last, but was a winner in the eyes of the group — and the nation — for running the event just six weeks away from her due date.
Thirty-four weeks pregnant, or nearly eight months, Montano ran the 800 meters Thursday in the U.S. track and field championships. The five-time national champion finished in 2 minutes, 32.13 seconds -- nearly 35 seconds slower than her personal best of 1:57.34 in 2010 in Monaco.
“I’ve been running throughout my pregnancy and I felt really, really good during the whole process,” Montano said after the qualifying heat.
Montano is expecting her first child and she told the Associated Press that she’s been running throughout the pregnancy. She and her husband also planned the baby on an “off year” so she can still compete in the World Championships and the Olympics, according to CBS LA.
“I just didn’t want to get lapped and be the first person to get lapped in the 800,” she told the AP. She was never close to being lapped (though she didn’t qualify for the semifinals, either). But she definitely stood out on the Hornet Stadium track. As her father, Eric Johnson, aptly put it to CBS LA: “Look at her belly hanging out.”
No, really. Look at it. Then bow down.
By the by, Dr. Francis Chang, an OB/GYN at Good Samaritan Hospital, told CBS LA that it’s probably safe for Montano to compete while pregnant because her body is used to that level of physical activity. However, Chang told the TV station, he wouldn’t advise other pregnant women who don’t regularly run 800-meter races to do so anytime soon.
“We tell them that whatever level of exercise they’re used to, that they can continue exercising at that level,” Chang said. “The only thing I worry about if it’s direct trauma to the belly or any falling.”
“We see so many people in different avenues in their life start their family, and it looks so different than it does for a professional athlete, especially for a professional athlete woman,” said Montano, whose due date is Aug. 13. “You’ve seen [four-time Olympic middle distance runner] Bernard Lagat have two kids, and we don’t see the other side of it. This is what it looks like to be a professional athlete as a woman.”
Montano, 28, finished fifth in the Olympic 800m and fourth at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. No American woman has won an Olympic 800m medal since Kim Gallagher‘s bronze in 1988.