If you’re a mom, you know how challenging it is just to find five minutes to exercise. For many elite athletes, taking time out of training and competition to have a baby can fundamentally change their career. But one mom is proving it’s possible to have kids and beat out 27 other women to make a world championship team.
Sara Vaughn is a mother of three daughters, full-time realtor and a runner. In June 2017, she qualified in one of the most hotly contested events on the track: the 1,500 meter race. Her third-place finish at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championship qualify her to compete with the U.S. team going to London for the biennial world championships in August.
For Vaughn competing in an elite sport and being a parent have always gone hand in hand.
“I had my first kid in college, and I never knew any different,” she told reporters after her race. “I was never really a good runner before I had kids. That all came after Kiki was born. I had her my sophomore year of college. And I started getting better after that, and we had our second one after we graduated college. And it was just life. I never really knew any different.”
Success on the track didn’t come easy. As a student athlete at the University of Colorado Bouder she tried to train as part of a team, but as a mom she found it difficult to fit everything in. So this year she and her husband tried something new in an attempt to place higher than her previous personal best: seventh at last year’s Olympic trials.
“There’s a big change that happened at the beginning of the year where my husband’s coaching me now,” she said. “We’ve just been able to focus on what I need to do, and I don’t have to build my schedule around a team. It’s been really selfish sort of. Like I get to work out when I need to work out or sleep in when I need to sleep in, and I think that’s been the big shift.”
Even then, she admits that her “days are crazy,” and training is “not always the primary focus.” But in a sport where most athletes wait to have children until after they’ve retired-or at least taken a step down in competition-Vaughn has proved that it’s possible, and maybe even more enjoyable, to be both a mother and a world-class athlete.