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Racing toward the finish line, leaving struggles behind

By The Health News Team | June 13, 2023
Julie Albers running the Boston Marathon

To help support her postpartum mental health, Julie Albers participated in the Boston Marathon.

Becoming a labor and delivery nurse was always Julie Albers’ focus as she completed nursing school in Boston. After a few years in San Diego, she found herself working her dream job at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

“I love working with women and being part of one of the most important days of people’s lives,” says Albers. “My patients remember me, and I appreciate playing a role in bringing their baby into the world.”

Albers was honored to give birth to her own two daughters at Sharp Mary Birch, Sadie in 2018 and Nora in 2021. However, she noticed something was missing after her second daughter was born. She loved being a mom and working as a nurse, but she was struggling to find her identity as the person she once was.

“I struggled with the selflessness that comes with being a parent and the selflessness that is especially expected of mothers,” says Albers. “After my second daughter was born, I struggled with postpartum depression, anxiety and rage and knew I had to do something to support my mental health.”

Running toward wellness

Albers ran track in high school and casually ran throughout college — completing two marathons over time. After having kids, she noticed that running had slowly disappeared from her life. She felt lucky just to fit in a quick moment to exercise every once in a while.

When gyms closed due to COVID-19, Albers began running again with her daughter in the stroller.

“It was challenging at first,” Albers says. “I could barely run a mile, but I eventually started increasing the distance and walking less.”

Making a dream come true

Having grown up in Boston, Albers had always dreamed of participating in the Boston Marathon. She grew up watching it as a spectator and imagined feeling the energy of the whole community while running through the city.

As she ran one day, listening to a guided running app, she learned about Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon. Switzer was not accepted as a “real athlete” because she was a woman, but she defied the odds.

Albers was inspired to find a way to run — not just any marathon — the Boston Marathon.

“I chose to take on this challenge for women, as an example to my daughters, and especially for myself and my mental health,” says Albers. “I wanted my journey to scream that women can do whatever they want, even if they become a mom.”

Fearless, empowered and proud

Albers decided to run the marathon with a charity. She applied and was accepted to 261 Fearless, a global nonprofit organization that uses running as a vehicle to empower and unite women through education.

The best part? 261 Fearless was founded by Kathrine Switzer, who wore the bib number 261 as she fearlessly battled critics and abuse while running the 1967 Boston Marathon.

“It was meant to be,” says Albers. “I was proud to do something for myself. And making the training happen with volunteering, being a mom of two and working was empowering.”

The day arrived. After training and bonding with the other 20 women who were running as part of the team, Albers ran the marathon on April 17, 2023.

“I had run two marathons before, so I knew I could do it,” says Albers. “It was more about the whole process and journey to get there that I was proud of.”

A goal bigger than one person

She can still remember the feeling as she turned down the last five blocks of the course and saw her family and friends cheering her on in the crowd. Her goal of completing the Boston Marathon was bigger than her, and seeing her daughter’s smile made it all worth it.

Julie Albers' daughter, Sadie, at the Boston Marathon

Julie's daughter, Sadie, supports her mom from the sidelines.

What’s more, after experiencing challenges with her postpartum mental health, Albers was inspired to become certified in perinatal mental health and began volunteering for the Postpartum Health Alliance. This helps her provide even more support to the women she cares for daily.

“Whether it is running or another interest, I want to share how important it is to take back a part of your identity as a woman and mother,” says Albers.

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