Olympian Alysia Montano entered the 800m at the U.S. Championships about six weeks before her due date on Thursday.
Montano, a five-time U.S. outdoor champion, clocked 2 minutes, 32.13 seconds to finish last in her eight-woman preliminary heat, 24.38 seconds behind her closest competitor. Here’s video of her race.
“I’ve been running through my entire pregnancy, and I felt really, really good during the whole process,” Montano told reporters after her race in Sacramento, Calif. “I definitely was like, OK, I think I can run a pretty decent time. I didn’t have a time on it [that I wanted to run]. I just knew I didn’t want to get lapped, be the first person to ever get lapped in an 800m. More than anything, I wanted to be here, and I’m feeling that fire and that desire to be on the track and to race. What a better avenue than to do it at USA Nationals.”
[WATCH LIVE: U.S. Championships, Friday at 10 pm ET]
Montano, the four-time reigning U.S. champion, had a previous qualifying time that allowed her to enter the competition. She said she consulted her doctor and midwife, who encouraged her to race 34 weeks into her pregnancy.
“That took away any fear of what the outside world might think about a woman running in pregnancy or exercise in general,” said Montano, wearing a customary flower in her hair. “What I found out mostly was that exercising and maintaining during pregnancy is actually much better for the mom and the baby.”
She received a standing ovation at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.
“I just felt so supported,” she said. “I didn’t want to be judged or have any ill things said about me. I just wanted to kind of do what my heart and my desire wanted to do.”
Montano said she knew she wouldn’t advance out of the first round. Rather, she viewed her participation as a celebration.
“We see so many people in different avenues in their life start their family, and it looks so different than it does for a professional athlete, especially for a professional athlete woman,” said Montano, whose due date is Aug. 13. “You’ve seen [four-time Olympic middle distance runner] Bernard Lagat have two kids, and we don’t see the other side of it. This is what it looks like to be a professional athlete as a woman.”
Montano, 28, finished fifth in the Olympic 800m and fourth at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. No American woman has won an Olympic 800m medal since Kim Gallagher‘s bronze in 1988.