SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Alysia Montano was glowing at the USATF Outdoor Championships -- and not just because she’d just run 800 meters in 110-degree heat.
Montano is pregnant. Just as she did three years ago when she was carrying her first child, the six-time national champion ran two laps Thursday at Hornet Stadium to the delight of the crowd.
While Montano was 34 weeks along in 2014, this time she is “just” 5-months pregnant and due in November. Wearing a “Wonder Woman” cartoon top and not just one, but two flowers in her hair, Montano, 31, placed last in her heat with a time of 2 minutes, 21.40 seconds.
She was smiling broadly as she crossed the finish line and raised both arms in victory. Soon after, she was greeted by daughter Linnea, nearly 3 and wearing a “Strong Like Mom” T-shirt.
Brenda Martinez won the heat with a time of 2:02.31 and was the top qualifier for the semifinals. The national championships are part of the “Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, and will be televised on NBC platforms.
“I came here last time at 8 months pregnant in 2014 and it was such an amazing experience,” said Montano, whose time that year was 2:32.13.
She said she’s not just running for two. Montano said many people, not just women, told her that her story had inspired them.
“There is something about coming out to any venue not really expecting to win but going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it,” Montano said. “It is the most beautiful part about me being a track and field athlete with the platform I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have a safe platform or voice that I do.”
Even though she demonstrated the first time that pregnant women could run without harming themselves or their child, Montano said, “It’s still a conversation that needs to be had. I represent so many different people: women, black women, pregnant women. It’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and an advocate for them.”
Montano said people told her, ‘Oh, you’re going to run faster than you did last time because you’re less pregnant,’ and I was like, ‘I’m still pregnant.’ And it is hotter out there today.”
The oppressive heat in Sacramento made some folks wonder if she would still go through with her plans.
Even Martinez said, “I just hope she’s careful,” but added, “She seems really happy and I’m happy for her.”
Montano said she takes care of herself and besides, “I’m not super-duper delicate,” she said.
She added that everyone – pregnant or not –needs to be careful in the heat. Montano didn’t warm up outside before the race, which began at 5:25 p.m. “The most time I’ve been outside was those 2 minutes and 20 seconds that I ran,” she said.
She chose the “Wonder Woman” top after seeing the movie and being “super stoked.”
“I wanted Wonder Woman to represent me,” Montano said. “When I found out (star Gal Gadot) filmed half the movie five months pregnant, I said, ‘I for sure am signing up for USA nationals.’”
And there are other similarities. “I don’t define myself as a runner,” Montano said. “I really define myself as a fighter for good. And I see that playing true in running.”
Her belly was bare, unlike three years ago when a pink uniform covered the very pronounced bulge, and she was wearing “flower power” shoes that she designed herself after being dropped by her shoe company, Asics. Montano, who still represents the New York Athletic Club, said the shoe company knew she wanted to have another child.
She explained to Linnea that she was running with her sibling in her belly like she did with her. “Yeah, it was sticking out,” Linnea replied.
Montano, who raced for the first time since February, said a difference in this pregnancy is that she has to chase her daughter around. “My first pregnancy I got to nap a lot more,” said Montano, who had to keep an eye on adventurous Linnea in the mixed zone.
Although she won’t compete at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, Montano is now recognized as the 2011 and 2013 world bronze medalist after a Russian runner was stripped of the medals due to doping violations.
And she won the gold Thursday among pregnant runners.
“Running is mine and always will be mine,” Montano said. “It’s about my journey and the power that I get from it.”