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While baby sleeps, stroller-pushing mom smashes world record in half-marathon

After failing to make the Olympic steeplechase trials, Julia Webb went after the half-marathon stroller world record — and smashed it.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

If there's a lesson in Julia Webb's experience, it's to always try again after a disappointment. If she hadn't, a world record wouldn't be hers.

Webb, 33, has been running competitively since high school, and this year, decided to try out for the Olympic steeplechase trials. She recently gave birth to her second daughter, Paula, and believed the timing was perfect. After having her first daughter, Joanie, in 2012, Webb had her best season in 2013; she thought postpartum running might lead to an Olympic bid.

Julia Webb broke the world record for running a half marathon while pushing stroller for women at Humana Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon. She poses with daughter, Paula, after the two completed the race.Courtesy Julia Webb

But she failed to qualify for the Olympic trials. So Webb set another goal — breaking the world record for a half-marathon run by a woman pushing a stroller, which Lindsy James of the United Kingdom set last month at 1:27:34.

“I was still in really good shape,” she told TODAY Parents. “My first goal fell through for the season and why not do something more fun?”

Related: Go, baby, go! Stroller-pushing dad wins half marathon and breaks world record

On July 17, Webb lined up at the start of the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, with 9-month-old Paula in a running stroller. While running with a stroller certainly wasn’t part of her track training, she takes Paula running about three times a week. She felt confident in herself, but worried about reports of winds up to 25 miles per hour.

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Alan Webb, who holds the American record for fastest mile, pushes daughter Joanie while running with Julia, who was pregnant with daughter, Paula. Julia just pushed Paula in a half marathon and broke a record for fastest half marathon with a stroller.Courtesy Julia Webb

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For the first three miles, the wind was quiet and Webb ran a 6:05-minute pace. But she hit a four-mile stretch where winds slowed her to a 6:35-minute mile. While the slower pace could have derailed her, the strong start kept her competitive. Halfway through she learned she was running at a 1:22 finish, four minutes faster than the record.

"I felt great," she said.

While mom ran, Paula enjoyed herself

“She fell asleep for a little bit and woke up for a couple of miles,” she said. "She was completely happy in there."

Julia Webb poses with daughter, Paula. The two completed the Humana Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon, where they broke the world record for half marathon with a stroller by completing it in 1:22:57.Courtesy Julia Webb

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When Webb struggled while pushing against the wind or up a hill, she used the energy of the other runners to stay motivated. And, she remembered her own endurance.

“I called upon the strength I have as a mom,” said Webb, who finished at 1:22:57.

While Webb attempted the stroller half-marathon record to end the season on a high note, she also liked this record because it is attainable. She’s not a professional runner and believes that any running mom can aspire to break it.

Julia Webb poses with 9-month-old daughter, Paula, after completing the Humana Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon. Webb smashed the world record for half marathon time with a stroller by running a 6:20-minute mile.Courtesy Julia Webb

“I hope it encourages other moms,” she said. "Be flexible in your goals and still see value in them and go after them even after your initial goal fails.”

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Related: 16 things I wish I knew before running a marathon

Whether moms want to run 5Ks or just run an easy mile after having a baby, Webb offers advice for running with a stroller.

  • Run as soon as you feel well enough — Most strollers recommend waiting until the baby is six months, but attachments exist allowing safe running with infants in their car seats. Moms who wait too long might be too out of shape, which makes pushing the 25-pound stroller plus baby difficult.
  • Take walk breaks — Running with a stroller strains the body differently than a normal run. If it feels too difficult, walk with the stroller. Slowly, your endurance will build.
  • Alternate hands — Steering the stroller with one hand at the time makes running with it feel more natural.
  • Bring a phone — Strollers get flat tires. No one wants to be stuck a few miles in the woods with an antsy baby and no way out.
  • Slow your pace — Don't expect to run your normal pace while pushing something that could weigh as much as 60 pounds. Pushing yourself too much can lead to injury.

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