You can listen to the Runified Podcast about Anna’s story here. Episode 7. 

How many of us have used the phrase, “If they could only walk a mile in my shoes . . . ” How many other of us have taken this saying for what it is and not walked one mile, but run 26.2 miles, all in the proverbial shoes of someone else? On April 24, 2016, Anna Quinlan did just that when she ran the Big Sur Marathon in honor of her son’s birth mother.

Anna’s son Noah’s birth mother was homeless. She did not know she was pregnant, so she did not receive any prenatal or post delivery care. She gave birth, alone, in the middle of the night, outdoors, under a canopy of stars and trees. In the morning she walked a mile to the nearest road where she then hitchhiked to the hospital and safely surrendered her baby into the arms of nurses, where she asked that they make sure he grew up in a family who could care for him and love him in a way she did not feel able to. He was then placed into Anna’s arms, where he has been loved ever since.

As has his first mother. Having also had a biological son 19 months before Noah’s birth, Anna understood the sacrifice and could only imagine walking a mile so soon after giving birth. The heartache in the journey to the hospital to relinquish a son and walking away empty-handed is not lost on anyone who hears this courageous tale. But Anna lives it. She has taken Noah’s birth story to heart and placed herself in a hardship to unite both of Noah’s mothers, and to honor her in one of the only ways that stands out to her.

Anna is a casual runner. She runs trails and for fun. In the solace of the trails she can rejuvenate her mind and soul. It was on one of these runs celebrating Noah’s third birthday that she knew what she must do to honor the woman who gave her one of her biggest blessings. She must face her own fear of running a marathon. A race that has seemed so hard, so insurmountable in the past, must now become her reality to bind her to Noah’s birth mom. But not any marathon, the Big Sur Marathon which is ranked as the 13th hardest marathon. And as she found out, the emotional journey was harder than the physical one.

Keeping yourself present when  you run a challenging race or course is hard. Sometimes it’s easier to go somewhere else in your head, to think of other things as the miles just fade away. But Anna wanted to remain in the moment, just as Noah’s birth mom must have been in the moment as she trudged that aching mile to the nearest road carrying a precious bundle. Anna reminded herself that this run was supposed to be hard. She wanted it to be hard. She wanted Noah’s mothers united in hardship and pain. And now they are.

As his first mother walked a long mile and hitchhiked another distance to get Noah to safety, now Anna will walk the rest of Noah’s life beside him. Through ups and downs and sideways paths. Through the good and the bad. The joy and the sorrow. She will cheer loudly and high-five him as well as cover his scrapes and kiss his tears away. All the while, the sacrifice of his first mom is never far from her heart.

The charity Anna supported with donations during this race is also dear to her. Every Mother Counts is a New York-based charity that supports making pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers everywhere in the world. Since distance is the greatest obstacle in maternal healthcare in various parts of the world, it only make sense that a running group supports their cause. Plus, with the fact that Noah’s mom received no prenatal care or childbirth assistance that we know of, it makes this charity a perfect fit, just like Noah with his forever family.

If you want to know more about Anna Quinlan, you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook. She is also a freelance writer as well. Kudos to you, Anna. For not only talking the talk, but walking the walk for all of us. Well done!