By: Mary Pilon
In July, 28-year old Sarah Brown was coming down the stretch of the 1,500 meters Diamond League race in Monaco, and she knew something was wrong.
“I was battling for last place,” Brown said. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t care what place I get. I just want to cross the finish line and stop. I love racing and the fact that my mind got to that place, the pain, it just felt like my legs were made of sand and that there was no oxygen running in my body.”
Her typically strong finishing kick was nowhere to be found, and she finished in last place, 4:09.17.
Brown had recently hit personal records in both the 800 meters and the 1500 meters. Her 2015 season was supposed to be a smooth ascent toward a bid for an Olympic berth to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. But a month before Monaco, at the U.S.A. Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Brown had a series of headaches, which she had dismissed as a head cold, perhaps due to anxiety. There, she had finished 6th, running 4:14.52.
Darren Brown, Sarah’s husband of three years as well as her coach, said that he, too, was baffled when his wife was struggling in practices this summer.
“She opened fast and big at the start of the season,” Darren said. “For her to take giant steps backward at that point didn’t make any sense.”
Unsure what could have being going wrong, he scaled back some of her practices and tried to be supportive, but the mystery continued. Was it low iron? Should she get blood work done? Or was it a mental game, anxiety over her performances?
After returning from Europe, Sarah saw a general practitioner where she had, among other things, a urine test. On July 27, the doctor called her: she was, in fact, six weeks pregnant.
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