Photo: Alexis Berg / Strava
British ultramarathoner Sophie Power recently took part in the 106-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (aka the UTMB, and one of the hardest ultrarunning races on the planet), just three months after giving birth to her son. The grueling race through the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps took her 43 hours and 33 minutes to complete—that is, after she stopped to breastfeed her baby. (Related: This Mama Breastfeeds While She Exercises, and It's Kind of Amazing)
In a viral image captured by Strava, the super mom is seen holding and feeding her baby in one arm and pumping with the other while at a race rest stop. This kind of moment is rarely seen at an athletic event, let alone one of this scale—and it has gained her kudos from athletes, moms, and just about everyone else all over the world.
Power's baby, Cormac, is used to being fed in intervals of just a few hours, but it took her 16 hours to reach the first rest stop where he was waiting for her.
"Oh my god, I was in agony," Power said in a statement to Strava. "Cormac usually feeds every three hours and it took me 16 to get to Courmayeur, where he could first meet me, so I was hand expressing everywhere I could en route." (FYI, hand expressing is essentially pumping the milk out with your hands.)
By the time Power did reach her son, she desperately needed him to feed as her breasts were uncomfortably full. "I was so relieved he was hungry," she continued in the statement. "After that, my husband John met me with the pump at every aid station he was allowed to and ferried back the milk." (Related: The Perks and Health Benefits of Breastfeeding)
As far as the race was concerned (oh yeah, that other huge thing this badass mom was doing), Power had to pace herself, given the fact that she had recently given birth and was breastfeeding. "I had to go so slowly," she told Strava. "I couldn't raise my heart rate too much as my body isn't primed to burn fat and I couldn't fully run downhill to protect my pelvis. In a typical race, I would get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible, but here I had to focus on keeping down enough food (for me and for Cormac!) and resting. The goal was simply to get around the course, which gave me so much time to take in the views, chat with people, and really absorb the whole experience." (Related: 9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise and Probably Don't)
Power hopes that, if anything, her viral photo proves that women can and should stay active before and after pregnancy as long as they take the right precautions. "During pregnancy, it felt like all the advice was to put your feet up and get fat, as anything else was taking a risk," she said. "Staying fit, healthy, and strong is so important and how you can safely do that needs to be talked about more." (See: Why Prenatal Exercise Is Safe and Healthy Before Giving Birth)