Did you ever pull off an incredible parenting feat simply out of necessity that turns out to be a pretty amazing accomplishment? Meet Anna Young, a passionate runner who pumped breast milk during a half marathon and is being hailed as a multitasking rock star of a supermom.
Young, who nurses her 5-month-old daughter about every three hours, didn’t think she could finish the Revel Big Cottonwood half marathon without suffering from painful engorgement, so the Utah mom ran wearing a backpack that held a manual breast pump in case she felt uncomfortable.
At the 8-mile mark, her breasts were feeling full so she slowed to a walk, pumped for about five minutes and resumed running, finishing the race 40 minutes quicker than she expected. A photograph of her pumping went viral, drawing awestruck praise from women calling her an inspiration.
“Looking back, it feels like an accomplishment, but at the time it was just what I needed to do,” Young, 27, told TODAY, adding that her husband didn’t get what all the attention was about. “I feel proud for being able to do it.”
On race day, Sept. 10, Young nursed her daughter at about 3:50 a.m. before leaving her Salt Lake City, Utah, home at 4:30 a.m., and fed the baby again after she finished.
“Because I had pumped for relief during the race, I got to enjoy the experience of finishing the race without being in any unnecessary pain unrelated to running,” said Young, who was a competitive distance runner in high school and college.
Before the race, Young figured she would run the first 6 miles before walking and possibly pumping, though she was wary to do it in public. But she was having a great race.
“Originally, I was going to pump on the side of the course or at the closest aid station,” she said. “I had been running so well I got excited about being in the race. That’s why I decided to keep walking while I pumped.”
“I get nervous sometimes still breastfeeding my daughter in public because you hear stories and see the looks people give you sometimes, so it definitely is intimidating,” she added. “But I didn’t want to let that stop me from competing in the race and from doing as well as I wanted to do.”
Despite wearing a high-impact sports bra with a front clasp and a zipper, pumping during the race “wasn’t really hard,” she said, adding that she had practiced ahead of time. “I knew I could make it work,” Young said.
It seemed like nobody really noticed what she was doing except for one runner who gave her a big boost. “She cheered me on and that gave me a little more confidence,” Young said.
Young, who had trained with her daughter in a jogging stroller, finished the 13.1 mile race in 1:44:27. “I was really excited,” she said.
Young was especially proud because of the struggle she and her daughter had with nursing early on. The baby was eating around the clock but never satisfied; Young had plugged ducts and was in pain. Her daughter had surgery at 7 weeks to correct a tongue tie.
During the rough times, Young turned to her local La Leche League and the Occupy Breastfeeding Facebook for support and she thanked them when she shared the photo online.
“This group and Le Leche League motivated me to find a way to run my race and take care of my daughter. #normalizebreastfeeding,” Young captioned her photo on the Occupy Breastfeeding Facebook page in a post that has 11,000 reactions.
Young's wish is for women to see that they can stay true to themselves when they have children.
“I hope it shows women in general that motherhood isn’t something that means you have to put all of the other things on hold,” she said. “Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I can’t do active things that I still love.”
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter: @lisaflam