Amber Miller sounds almost apologetic when she says yes, she did have an epidural when she delivered daughter June at 10:29 p.m. Sunday. She just didn’t think she had the strength to go without an epidural. Not surprising, considering she had completed the Bank of America Chicago Marathon seven hours earlier.
Really, that last sentence should have a row of exclamation points after it.
In a phone interview from her hospital room, Miller says she wasn’t sure until the last minute whether she was going to run the marathon, her eighth. Not because she didn’t think she could do it, but because it fell eight days before her due date.
“I kind of was thinking it was likely I was going to have her before the race,” says Miller, 27, a stay-at-home mom who lives in the Chicago suburb of Westchester, Ill. After all, son Caleb, now 19 months, was born 18 days before his due date.
But “the night before, I’m still pregnant, I’m still feeling good. I figured I paid for it.”
So what the heck, she thought, not planning on actually completing the whole 26.2 miles. “I thought it’s likely that the last few miles I’m going to get really, really tired.”
On her doctor’s advice, she conserved her energy by alternating between running and walking every two miles. “Pregnancy-wise, I felt fine. The baby was still moving. I was drinking a lot, eating a lot.”
And by mile 18 or 19, “I’m thinking: you know, I’m going to do this.”
And she did, in six hours and 25 minutes.
During the race, she experienced what she considered to be Braxton Hicks contractions, which she always felt when running while pregnant. “I didn’t know for sure if I was in labor yet right after the race finished.” She lay down in the grass for a little after the race to see if they would go away. They didn’t.
As she and her husband, Joe, drove to a deli to grab a bit to eat (turkey rueben for her, in case you’re wondering how marathon moms fortify themselves), “I was still having the contractions. I kind of thought, well, maybe this is real labor.” She’s pretty certain her running triggered it. By the time she reached Central DuPage Hospital at 5:30 p.m., she was 5 centimeters dilated.
This wasn’t even Miller’s first marathon during this pregnancy. At 17 weeks, she finished the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha in four hours and 23 minutes. In that race, she walked only one mile for every three that she ran. And she ran the Indianapolis Marathon when she was 18 weeks pregnant with Caleb.
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Miller, who ran practically every day during her pregnancy, says she did wonder whether any other woman has ever completed a marathon and given birth to a full-term baby on the same day. Still, she never expected the media attention she’s been getting.
She’s more impressed with her husband’s achievement. Since she wanted to run, he felt he had to, too, “considering my situation,” even though he hadn’t trained at all. “We ran about half of it together, and then his knee gave out completely. He walked the rest of the way.” Still, he finished only 10 or 15 minutes behind her without any training.
Miller says she’s looking forward to running more marathons. But not her husband. “He said that’s his first and last.”