8 Months Pregnant Woman, 40, Completes Shanghai Marathon

Source: .whatsonweibo, Jessica Colwell

A 40-year-old woman named Li Lili () became news in China after she ran the Shanghai Marathon last Sunday while 32 weeks pregnant, completing the race in five hours and 17 minutes.

 This was the third marathon Li has run during her pregnancy. She ran the first two during week eight (with a time of 3:54:43) and week 22 (with a time of 4:47:58) of her pregnancy. 

Lily is an avid runner, having completed 62 marathons during her lifetime. Her story went viral on Weibo under the hashtag 8 Months Pregnant 40-Year-Old Woman Runs Marathon (#408#), which has received over 200 million reads at time of writing. 

[Li has run three marathons during her pregnancy, one in each trimester.] 

Her story has ignited debate across Weibo this week regarding the merits and dangers of vigorous exercise during pregnancy. In interviews with the press, however, Li remained defiant in the face of her critics. 

For many people, they are worried about this because they dont understand it, she told video news site Pear Video in an interview. 

Many people have told me it is dangerous. They criticize me, just like they criticized Chen Yihan, she says, referring to Taiwanese actress Ivy Chen () who faced fierce online criticism after posting pictures of herself running while five months pregnant in 2018. 

Actress Ivy Chens controversial Weibo post from 2018, showing her running 5 kilometers while five months pregnant. 

But most of these critics have never even been pregnant, Li continued: The fact is, I did this because I have a very deep understanding of my own body. Ive run over 60 marathons, I am an extremely good runner. Ive run a marathon in 3:28, which is considered an excellent time even for talented athletes, even for men. I have my own training methods, Ive been training for a very long time, and have carefully prepared for these marathons. 

The reactions to Lis story online have ranged from enthusiastic praise to outright condemnation. 

Wow! I admire how strong she is! It is said that each person knows what is right for them in their own heart. Its none of your business what she does with this unborn hero! gushes the most popular comment on Pear Videos Weibo post about the story. 

But another popular comment argues that marathon running is actually inappropriate for Chinese women in general: Foreigners running marathons is fine, but this is not for Chinese women. Pregnant Chinese women running marathons is equivalent to them not caring for their children. 

The results from a poll put out by Chengdu Economic Daily so far show the majority of readers do not oppose Lis decision to run a marathon, with 54,000 choosing the option One case cannot represent the whole, it will vary from individual to individual and 38,000 choosing Support, if the mothers body is strong enough. Only 17,000 chose the option Oppose, pregnant women should not engage in vigorous exercise. 

What do you think of a 40-year-old woman running a marathon while 8 months pregnant? asks a Weibo poll by Chengdu Economic Daily. 

Some comments on the poll argued that Li was irresponsible to take part in a marathon, in case something did go wrong: Problems come up when you least expect them. If its just you running on your own, thats one thing. But this is a group race. I cant say if its right or wrong, but it could bring a lot of trouble to other people. 

But the majority of popular comments expressed outright support and admiration, or at the very least opposition to Lis critics, telling them to mind their own business. 

The support for Lis decision appears to fly in the face of Chinese traditional attitudes towards pregnant women. The list of dos and donts for Chinese mothers-to-be is long and complex, ranging from the bizarre (no eating/drinking dark foods so as not to affect the babys skin color) to the more common (avoiding shellfish). 

The belief that pregnant mothers should avoid exertion is high on the list, extending even to the month after birth. 

But despite these strong traditions, Lis strength and determination have clearly inspired new support for expectant mothers who wish to continue an active lifestyle while pregnant.