Elite runner Sarah Brown made headlines for competing in the Olympic trials nearly four months after giving birth to her first daughter. As a runner, she overcame incredible training obstacles and accomplished athletic feats that most of us can only dream about.
Pregnancy and childbirth present many challenges for any mother, even without the added pressure and training required for an Olympic hopeful. Despite keeping a healthy diet and added supervision of her body, Sarah developed a calcium deficiency from pregnancy and breastfeeding which caused low bone density. Sarah is proof that even the healthiest women are prone to developing calcium deficiencies.
Sarah has been chasing Olympic dreams for years. In fact, in 2012 an injury prevented her from making the team. In a new espnW documentary series titled Run Mama Run, which focuses on Sarah’s training for the 2016 Olympics, she said, “You have four years to think about that moment. This was my year to make the team, and then it all changed.”
In 2015, while continuing to compete and training for the Olympics, Sarah found out she was pregnant. The baby would be due in March of 2016––just four months before the July 7th Olympic trials.
“I have no idea if you can have it all. And I don’t know if I’ll make the team, but I owe it to my daughter to try.”
–– Sarah, in espnW’s Run Mama Run.
And so she ran.
With the help of her trainer Darren (who also happens to be her husband), Sarah got stronger and faster. in March 2016, the couple welcomed their first child, Abigail.
Today wasn’t the fairytale ending you dream about. But then again, this journey never really was about an ending, it’s a beginning. A new chapter as a family of three. Thanks for all the support ❤️ & you can bet you will continue to see this mama run #runmamarun
A photo posted by Sarah Brown (@sarahmb15) on
In an interview with People Magazine, Sarah said that after Abigail’s birth, her training was going “really well.” Then Sarah began to have some back pain. After a few tests, doctors discovered that Sarah had developed low bone density caused by her pregnancy and breastfeeding.
According to the National Institute for Health (NIH), it’s uncommon for women to develop low bone density from pregnancy, but it does happen. The NIH report states the need for calcium is “especially great during the last 3 months of pregnancy” because that’s when a baby’s skeleton is developing. During the last half of a pregnancy, calcium is also important because that’s “when the baby is growing quickly and has the greatest need for calcium.”
The NIH also reports that breastfeeding can cause women to “lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass.” The good news is that bone loss during and after pregnancy is reversible. Bone density is usually restored several months after the baby’s delivery or a few months after the mother is no longer breastfeeding.
Sarah’s low bone density from pregnancy and breastfeeding resulted in a high grade stress fracture, and a few compound fractures in her back. As a result, Sarah and Darren made the changes necessary to help her body heal all while continuing to get her ready for Olympic competition.
In her People Magazine interview, Sarah said that as she worked to recovered, there were moments when they were not sure if she would even make it to the Olympic trials.
But Sarah and Darren never gave up on her dream.
Sarah made it to the U.S. Olympic Trials, her first race since giving birth. She competed in the women’s 1,500 meter preliminary round, and came in 25th of 27 women in the first round. Unfortunately, she was one of three women eliminated.
Although Sarah didn’t make the Olympic team, it was not for lack of trying. Her inspiring story reminds us to never give up on our dreams and that even the healthiest people are not immune to the effects of calcium deficiency.
For more of Sarah’s amazing journey to the Olympics, check out espnW fantastic documentary series on her Run Mama Run.
What inspires you most about Sarah’s journey? What one question do you wish you could ask her?