“We run so others don’t have to”

A year ago this week I was mildly injured in probably seventeen different areas of my body just days away from hopping on a plane to New York to run a marathon with team Every Mother Counts. The other day a friend of mine was describing his recent sky-diving trip and telling me that I had to try it at least once, and I was like, dude. I ran a marathon. The portion of my bucket list that includes SKY DIVING got checked off when I crossed the finish line because whatever emotion I’d experience jumping out of a plane? That was mile 17.

The view of the earth underneath me while free-falling? I had that hallucination at mile 22.

Despite the horrible weather and events of the last week out East (I hope all of you are safe and getting whatever help you may need, my heart and thoughts are with you) the NYC Marathon is still scheduled to take place on Sunday. I’m not running it this year due to the mercy of Christy Turlington and Erin Thornton (Executive Director of Every Mother Counts) because they quickly figured out that if they had asked me to do it again this year I would have said yes and then lost every single limb while training.

Last night Christy sent out a very moving email about the event and her experience, and I asked if I could share with you what she wrote. These are her words:

As you may or may not know, I am still planning to run my 2nd ING NYC Marathon this Sunday for Every Mother Counts. Please support me here.

Why I am running again?

I am sure I am not the first or last woman to liken running a marathon to giving birth. I know at least one who wrote a brilliant blog [specifically this post] about it last year after she completed her first on behalf of Every Mother Counts.

If you are with me on the analogy so far, you’ll understand my reasoning for attempting another race. Running a marathon was definitely on my bucket at some point but when I became a mom it fell further back on that list.

Then, last August, out of nowhere the opportunity presented itself and I jumped at the chance to challenge myself by running my first marathon that November. Well, it wasn’t entirely out of nowhere in the end. As small as we were, and still are, Every Mother Counts was offered ten bibs for the 42nd ING NYC Marathon. We recognized right away that we knew enough runners to wear them. However, in committing personally to run on behalf of the organization I founded, it donned on me that there was perhaps no better way to highlight one particular maternal health challenge that arguably leads to countless preventable deaths related to both pregnancy and childbirth – distance.  

When we filmed “No Woman, No Cry” in Tanzania back in 2009, we met Janet after she had walked 5 kilometers to the nearest clinic, weeks past her due date and pregnant with her third child, hoping to deliver there. She was then turned away because of a shortage of beds after a few hours and expected to walk all the way back home. A few days later she returned but the staff and clinic were unable and unequipped to help her, so our film crew organized transport to get her to the nearest hospital 35 kilometers away. What we learned from Janet’s story was that hers is not extraordinary. In fact, 5k is the minimum distance women must walk for basic prenatal care or health services of any kind and the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) is not an uncommon distance for a woman to have to travel to reach emergency obstetric care.
Our team ran so that other moms don’t have to walk and there was no greater motivation for every mile we trained and every mile of that race. When I hit my wall at mile 19, Nick, one of my teammates and also my running coach said, “Think of all those moms, Christy. You can do this. You can do it for them.”

And I did. After I crossed the finish line last year I was asked if I’d do it again, and unlike after delivering Grace, when I knew the answer was, “Heck yah,” I just wasn’t sure. Not until we got the call once again, “How many bibs do you need?” This year Team Every Mother Counts has grown to 50. I have two kids- I had to do it at least one more time, right?

The part that resonated with me most is that she was unsure when they asked if she’d do it again. I’ve told people again and again that a childbirth without drugs was WAY easier than running a marathon. If you had to choose between the two, GO WITH A BABY. But these women who have to walk to the nearest clinic, most of them IN LABOR while doing so, they are pretty much doing both. At the same time.

Here is a PSA her organization in partnership with CHI&Partners put together about one of the biggest barriers women face during pregnancy and childbirth: distance. Watch this and see if you can fathom what it would be like if your labor and delivery was like that on the right side of the screen.

This is her incentive to run. Good luck, Christy and the rest of the team. And on behalf of mothers everywhere, thank you for dedicating your life to this work.