We’ve all seen the picture of an iceberg that shows what we see above water is only a fraction of what is happening underneath. This depiction is the reality for many people or situations that we encounter every day. The story always has more to it than first meets the eye.
This is no different for Alysia Montaño. Many know her as “the runner with a flower in her hair,” or “the pregnant runner.” But like all elite athletes, Alysia is more than a runner, with a lifetime of stories that make her who she is. Today Alysia not only helped us understood who she is, but how we can look beneath the surface to understand others and even ourselves in a new light.
The Pregnant Runner
Although Alysia has won seven national championships and two world championships, some of her biggest recognition came when she decided to run at the 2014 USA Nationals while she was 8 months pregnant. Like you would guess, many people (who were not her coach, midwife, or doctor) began questioning what she was doing. “Is that healthy for you or the baby?” they would ask.
Alysia was being healthy, and her first daughter Linnéa was carried to full-term, strong and healthy. While Alysia didn’t PR during that race, she finished strong and proved her point. It is okay to be a mother and a runner, and it’s okay to do them simultaneously.
This was just the beginning for Alysia and boldly living her beliefs. She continues to speak out today for women and underprivileged groups, working with brands that support women in their careers and their motherhood and calling out those brands that don’t
What Privileges Do You Have?
With all the talk of equal rights, planet conservation, and other issues, life can get overwhelming quickly. Sometimes you might just want to curl up into a cozy ball under a blanket and shut out the world. It’s easy to want to just put your head down, live your own life, and not try to change a world that can seem unchangeable at times.
Alysia recommends to simply take a moment and recognize all the privileges you have when you feel this way. For those that don’t have the same privileges, they don’t have the option to hide from their challenges. They must fight every day.
All of us have both more and less privileges than other groups of people. Hopefully this gives you motivation to keep working toward a better life while being grateful for what you already have. Work hard to gain those privileges you don’t yet have, and look out for those that have even less. Put yourself in the shoes of others and you will find energy to fight for them.
What It’s Like to Be a Russian Athlete
Every person has a different story. When Alysia found out that she would be upgraded to the Bronze Medal from her initial fourth place finishes, it was difficult for her to describe her feelings. Of course, she was happy to find out she would receive her medal, but also upset about the entire process.
It will be impossible to truly give Alysia what she deserved. A moment with her country’s flag, standing on the podium amidst other athletes, lost pay and potential contracts, and having her departed grandmother never know of her accomplishments are all part of what she will never get back. Her story was changed forever.
Yulia Stepanova, the Russian athlete who was the whistleblower to set off the doping allegations was able to talk with Alysia about her experiences training as a potential Olympic athlete in Russia. Her story is very different than those runners in the U.S. While most athletes in the U.S. need to go searching for illegal performance-enhancing drugs, these Russian athletes were given pills at a young age, expected to take them, and rarely told what they were.
To perform clean, they had to overcome more hurdles than should be expected of them. Alysia recognized that Yulia not only had a much different experience than her as an elite athlete, but also risked her life in being a whistleblower.
Run in Their Shoes
The takeaway is straightforward, though not easy. Try to consider other people’s lives and experiences. No one has the same story as you, whether that is an underprivileged member of society or a foreign athlete. We can continue to work toward something greater by doing our best to understand the people around us.
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Thank you to my wonderful sponsors Generation UCAN and Altra for sponsoring this episode of the Running for Real Podcast.
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Thank you to Alysia, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.