Athletes not letting pregnancy sideline them: 'All about what baby is used to'


Published on April 19, 2017

MONCTON, N.B. — Athletes at the peak of their game aren't letting pregnancy put them on the sidelines.

On Wednesday, tennis star Serena Williams posted a picture of herself on Snapchat with the words "20 weeks" — an apparent announcement that she's pregnant. It would mean that the 35-year-old was pregnant when she won the Australian Open in January.

And earlier this week, Julie McGivery of Moncton, N.B., completed her first Boston Marathon — while eight months pregnant.

The 36-year-old physiotherapist spoke with Canadian Press reporter Kevin Bissett on Wednesday about the challenges and unique joys of her feat:

Q: What kind of reaction did you get when you showed up at the starting line with a baby bump?

A: There wasn't two minutes that went by that I didn't hear something from somebody in the crowd, and it was all positive and very encouraging. It was 'Oh my God, she's pregnant,' and 'You're my inspiration.' It was really great, especially at times when I thought I was in a lot of pain.

Q:When did you learn that you qualified for this year's Boston Marathon?

A: I knew that I qualified 10 months after my first daughter was born. I worked hard all summer and qualified at a race in Toronto. You don't get your official acceptance until registration happens and that was the following fall, so October of 2016.

Q: And I understand you learned something else that day.

A: Yes, same day. I got my letter in the morning in an email. I was pretty excited and went home and had a positive pregnancy test.

Q: So, come marathon day, how far along were you in the pregnancy?

A: 32-1/2 weeks.

Q: That's far along.

A: Yeah out of 40, and I was two weeks early with my first, so really coming down to the last weeks.

Q: That's got to be a real dilemma, deciding if you can even do the marathon when you're eight months pregnant. What was going through your mind?

A: Certainly when I found out that I was pregnant, my first thought was 'Well I guess I'm not running Boston. I guess I'll have to qualify again in a couple of years and do it later.' I was training at the time for another marathon a few weeks later, so I was in good shape and I had been running long distances, so I said I'd keep up my running and see how it goes.

Q: So how was the run?

A: Normally you hit the runners' wall around 35-36 kilometres. I hit that at 10. So then I just had to endure it for the next 32 kilometres.

Q: What kind of reaction did you get from the baby along the way?

A: It's all about what the baby is used to. I've been running seven to 10 hours a week the entire pregnancy. Every now and then I'd give the baby a little poke and the baby would poke back, so I knew we were good, so we kept going.

Q: Crossing the finish line, what was the emotion?

A: I remember at the very end, in the last 100 metres or so, I felt the presence of someone coming up beside me, and it was a lady maybe 20 or 30 years older than me, and she started to pass me, and I sprinted and took her at the finish line. She said 'I can't believe I just got passed by a pregnant woman,' and I said 'I wasn't going to let you pass me. You're twice my age.' We had a laugh about that.

Q: What was your time? How did that compare to your qualifying time?

A: My qualifying time was 3 hours, 34 minutes. My marathon time was like 6 hours, 50 minutes.

Q: Will you pass down the medal to the new baby, considering they've already completed the Boston marathon?

A: Absolutely. I asked them at the finish line if I could have two. I said, 'I deserve it don't I? I ran twice as long.' They couldn't give me two, but I'll frame it and put it in the baby's room.

Q: I understand you've decided on Boston as a middle name?

A: Perhaps. It started off as a bit of a joke, but my husband did agree to it. As a middle name it would be a great story because people would always ask why they have that middle name. I think it's a happy story.

(This interview has been condensed.)

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press