By Faith Kipyegon
When I took time out to have a baby, I took a full year off running: four months before the birth, another eight months after it.
Coming back was not easy.
Your body changes during pregnancy. I gained a lot of weight: I was 45kg before, 53kg after. Things were not as they were before.
I lost all my fitness. I was tired all the time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come back. It just takes time.
A baby is a blessing from God, and I didn’t want to wait until after my career to accept that in my life.
For many years, I had planned 2018 as the perfect time to start a family. The biggest championship that year was the Commonwealth Games, but I already won gold in that in 2014 so I said, let me go after another gold medal this year: a baby. That way, I could be back in time for the 2019 World Championships.
I got pregnant not long after the 2017 World Championships in London. The key, from the start, was having good people around me. People I could trust to give me the best advice.
My doctor told me I could continue training while pregnant, because I didn’t have any complications. I listened to my body. If I was tired, I slept. If I didn’t feel like running far, then I didn’t.
I kept running for about the first five months of pregnancy, then rested afterwards. My daughter, Alyn, arrived in June 2018.
That was an emotional day. When you see your child for the first time, you realise that becoming a mother is really amazing.
It’s not always easy, but for me the journey has been really nice.
I took eight months of rest after she was born, breast-feeding her all that time. Then I started walking and jogging again in February last year, building towards the World Championships in Doha.
I decided to move coaches for my comeback as I’m now living in Eldoret, which is close to Kaptagat, where my management – Global Sports Communication – has a camp overseen by Patrick Sang.
He’s a really good coach, one who understood how my body was working as it came back from maternity leave. He gave me a training programme and although it was very sensible, it still wasn’t easy to complete all the time.
My body had been inactive for so long and I was really tired going for long runs. Three times a week, I did gym sessions to strengthen my body and, after a while, my fitness started to come back.
As a mother, your priorities change a little. Coming back home after training, you are tired and just want to sleep, but you have to look after your baby. Thankfully, I had many great people around me who always helped out with childcare.
My daughter is a nice girl. She never cries during the night so I’m able to sleep all the way through. She’s a lot of fun to be around. She likes playing in the house, watching cartoons on my phone and, although she doesn’t know yet what I do for a living, in the future she’ll come to understand.
The biggest difference she made in my life was in my mindset. She gave me motivation in my career to provide what she needs in future – education and other things.
She made me want to work really hard.
But coming back as I did wouldn’t be possible without those around me: my coach, my manager, my training mates. I learned a lot from Eliud Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kamworor since I started training in Kaptagat, and seeing their approach made me want to follow in their footsteps.
My first race back came a year after giving birth: June 2019 in Stanford. I was really not in good shape, not sure how my body would cope, so I wasn’t expecting much. To win a Diamond League race and break four minutes for 1500m was a huge surprise.
Four months later, I ran a perfect race in Doha, winning 1500m silver and setting a Kenyan record of 3:54.22. That was two seconds quicker than I had ever run, a time I couldn’t do before maternity, which is proof of what’s possible.
Life, of course, is different now than it was before. It took time to adjust, to find that balance between being a mother and a professional athlete.
Yes, coming back is really difficult, but you don’t have to lose hope.
All you have to do is make sure there are good people around you and to approach your sport with a fresh mind, to stay going on the road back, even when it’s hard.
Remind yourself that you were a good athlete before, and you will be again.
Article originally appeared on spikes.worldathletics.org