Marathon runner and athletics coach Stephanie Bruce has been sharing her journey from professional sports to motherhood and back with the world. The runner who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona took a break from her athletic career in 2014 in order to become a mother and gave birth to two sons in 15 months.
She started training again in early 2016 and is documenting her journey in a series of candid posts on her blog and social media. More than 63,000 people follow Stephanie on her Instagram page where she posts on everything from the “grand canyon” that appeared in the middle of her stomach after her pregnancy, to the difficulties in getting back to competitive form.
It all kicked off when the 33-year-old developed diastasis recti, a condition in which the abdominal muscle walls separate during pregnancy to make more room for the baby to grow. Stephanie not only found it hard to run as she used to before bearing two children, but she was also having trouble making peace with a body that was not looking as young as before.
When the picture of her post-pregnancy abdomen went viral, the 2012 Big Sur Half Marathon winner realized that sharing these issues with the world can have a therapeutic effect on her, as well as inspire women facing similar doubts.
Although not everyone appreciated the former IAAF World Half Marathon Championships participant’s openness, with some criticizing her for over-sharing, the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.
“Totally fell in love with you,” one woman wrote. “You are an inspiration to all of us mommies with ‘broken bellies.'”
And it seems to have worked for her as well, as Bruce successfully ran the 26.2 mile California International Marathon in December 2016. Training for CIM, she managed to start running a high of 102 miles per week – the closest she has ever been to her pre-pregnancy 120-mile weekly standard.
“The motivation is high because I still want to be one of the best marathoners in the country. I want to prove to myself that I could have kids, take a break, and really come back stronger than ever,” she told Runner’s World.