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Two of the fastest women at the Gate River Run gave birth shortly before racing

Laura Campbell (second from left) and Mae Barker (right with pink hat) both finished among the fastest female runners of the Gate River Run soon after giving birth.
Laura Campbell (second from left) and Mae Barker (right with pink hat) both finished among the fastest female runners of the Gate River Run soon after giving birth. (2021 WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They ran the Gate River Run before their new babies could crawl.

Laura Campbell and Mae Barker not only were two of the fastest women in the field, they both recently gave birth. Campbell about five and a half months ago and Barker less than a month before the Gate River Run. In training, Barker ran up the day before she gave birth, while Campbell didn’t run while pregnant. But both got back on the road very quickly after their new arrivals and they showed what they were made of on Saturday.

“I started running about 10 weeks after I gave birth, and really, all in all, have had a good progression,” Campbell said. “I have felt really, really good and strong. But had you told me I was going to go out the next day and run 60 minutes, I would have been like, ‘No, I can’t do that.’”

But she did.

Campbell’s finishing time of 1:00:34 was about two minutes off of her best ever time in a 15K. She ran 58:40 in 2013. But back then, she wasn’t recovering from giving birth. She admitted that she wishes she could have broken the 60-minute mark this year.

“I’m a very competitive person, so I’m always going to have that hint of like, ‘I could have done better,’” Campbell said. “But running has transitioned for me since motherhood into something that I get to do--something that’s so much more of a gift as opposed to something I have to do. I was a collegiate athlete. And so running was what I had to do. And now it’s truly just a gift. And so it just gives me so much joy and freedom.”

Campbell was the fastest local finisher who didn’t start with the elite women runners. She finished 51st out of 3,626 women to finish the 15K course. Less than eight minutes after Campbell crossed the finish line, Barker turned in a time of 1:08:26. While the top 10 percent of runners are awarded a hat to commemorate their run, Barker’s time was in the top 3.5% of all female runners. It’s a feat that her son, who was less than four weeks old when Barker ran, will need a few years to appreciate.

“I just listened to my body and my body likes to run,” Barker said. “The week before he was born, I did 42 miles. I did some races while I was pregnant with him. And I just listened to my body, I don’t do anything. If something feels wrong, then I stop. But I’m running. Just like breathing to me. And I, I feel better after I run..”

Barker routinely competes in ultra-marathons and she was seen running with her husband and daughters just days before giving birth. Then, less than a month later, she was lined up at the Gate River Run.

“I just felt so lucky to have been able to run. And that I felt good,” Barker said. “I don’t think the hips are where they need to be. So I did have some aches and pains. But just knowing that my body was able to run again. I just wanted to cry it to finish like tears of joy. So and knowing that I’m coming back to the sweet baby here, who I know he’s going to be a great runner. You know, just like his sisters.

While some doctors recommend taking it easy during pregnancy and after giving birth, both Campbell and Barker said they listened to their bodies to tell them what they could or couldn’t do.

“I don’t ask for permission,” Barker said. “ I’m 43 years old and this baby chose me. I feel like it chose a mom that was a runner and I was told like you should be briskly walking at this point. And running is just kind of walking but fast forward right? I listen to my body. Everything told me that it was safe to run. And so that’s what I did.”

About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.