Allyson Felix Recalls 'Scary Times' She Thought She'd Never Race Again After Birth of Her Daughter
Allyson Felix is definitely on the right track.
Less than a year after welcoming her first child, the Olympic athlete is celebrating motherhood and making history after she surpassed a record set by the fastest man alive.
Felix, 33, now holds the record for the most gold medals at the track and field World Championships after winning her 12th gold in a mixed-gender 4×400 meter relay during the biennial event held in Doha, Qatar, on Sept. 29.
Her World Championships win broke the tie she held with fellow Olympic medalist Usain Bolt, considered the fastest man in history, who earned 11 gold medal wins at the championships before his retirement.
And while Felix describes the history-making win as “really special,” the famed runner admits that beating Bolt’s record wasn’t exactly the goal.
“It’s funny because it’s not something that was really on my radar coming into the championship, but it’s something that represents the hard work I’ve put in over the course of my career,” Felix tells PEOPLE of her record-breaking win.
In fact, the Olympic athlete is still trying to take it all in.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m excited to get home and really be able to celebrate what it means to me,” she says.
As the new face of Athleta, Felix says her brand partners helped celebrate with videos from the company’s headquarters as well as some from the local New York and Los Angeles-based stores. And while she has yet to hear from Bolt, she says it’s just a matter of time.
“I haven’t heard from Usain, yet, but he’s a good guy I’m sure he’ll reach out,” she says.
Felix’s history-making moment comes just 10 months after she gave birth to daughter Camryn via an emergency cesarean section on Nov. 28. Her 12th gold medal holds another special significance as it is the athlete’s first gold medal win as a mom.
“This victory feels so different because I see it through the eyes of my daughter,” says the Olympic runner, who grew up wanting to be a school teacher. “I hope this lets her know that she can do anything she wants and that if she does it ‘Like a Girl’ that’s even better,” she adds, referencing Lizzo’s famous tune.
Felix also says her favorite thing about being an athlete is having the ability to impact the lives of children.
“I hope I’m able to encourage young people that they can do what they set their minds to. I want my daughter to be passionate and pursue something that she believes she was created for, whatever that is. She’ll have my support always,” the mom of one says.
Despite having just 10 months in between giving birth and winning a record-breaking gold medal, Felix says her experience has further proved her resilience and made her stronger.
“It means that women are unstoppable. We are a force. We create life, we exist, and we have power. I want this moment to be shared with women all over the world,” she says. “With mother’s who are feeling overwhelmed and little girls who feel they are supposed to shrink themselves to fit in. Use your voice. Speak your truth. Change the world.”
The star athlete says she discovered her ability to push her body to unimaginable limits in pregnancy, giving birth and training, but reveals she’s “looking forward to giving [her] body rest for a few weeks,” and spending time with her daughter ahead of getting ready for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“My daughter is here with me so we’ve been spending lots of sleepless nights together,” she says, noting that despite lack of sleep “the moments with her have been so precious.”
“If I would have known how hard it would have been I would have never tried, but I’m so glad I went for it,” Felix admits, recalling the hard days of getting back into the swing of things post-pregnancy. “There were days sitting in the NICU that it was hard to imagine I would ever race again. Those were scary times, but I’m so thankful to be back.”
Twelve-time gold medal winner or not, the one thing Felix wants to teach her daughter isn’t how to win a race, but the importance of having the drive to go for the gold.
“Always keep going,” she says. “Just put one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to worry about all 10 steps of your goal. It’s just one step 10 times. Just keep going.”
And while Felix admits that winning gold is “always” the end goal, she says she’s running for more than just a medal.
“I want to raise awareness about black maternal mortality and help people see that the Olympics are so much bigger than sport,” she says. “The real purpose is to bring people together in a peaceful way to realize that dreams are possible.”
To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin next summer on NBC.