The Heartbreaking Reason This Dad Ran a Marathon Pushing an Empty Stroller


dad running marathon with stroller
Troy Austin/Facebook

When Troy Austin got ready to start the Sunshine Coast Marathon, he had his stroller ready to go. However, he wasn't like any of the other parents lining up and preparing to push their little ones for the entire 26.2 miles. Unlike those other stroller-pushing runners, Troy was running with an empty stroller, and for an important reason -- not as a joke like many onlookers assumed. Troy ran the distance with his vacant yellow stroller to honor the child he and his wife, Kelly, never got to meet and to raise awareness about stillbirths.

  • When Kelly was 27 weeks pregnant with their first baby, TG, the couple from Australia learned that their baby boy had died in the womb.

    Doctors couldn't find TG's heartbeat during a routine appointment, but Kelly and Troy knew nothing about stillbirths -- or that it could ever happen to them. After repeat tests confirmed the devastating news the next day, Kelly took medicine to induce labor and deliver her stillborn baby boy.

    Since TG's unexpected death, the heartbroken couple has worked to preserve TG's memory and also raise funds for other grieving families coping with the loss of a baby. 

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  • In order to help raise awareness about stillbirths, Troy pushed TG's empty stroller -- and the public's response is exactly why he needed to do it.

    Troy purposefully didn't post a sign to the stroller so that people would ask, and hopefully learn. The first comment made about Troy's empty stroller came as he was lining up before the race started. "Hey mate you have lost your kid," he recalled a woman saying in a post about the experience on Facebook.

    "This phrase was a double-edged sword, a sentence that was said so innocently at last weekend’s marathon," he wrote. "'Yes that's the point,' the smile dropped from her face as she came for a hug and apologized. I smiled because at that moment it was the reaction I was hoping for and almost the last time it occurred throughout the day."

  • Troy is grateful that he had his friend Brett running by his side the entire time, because as the race progressed, so did the comments.

    "Every time, 'Hey mate you lost your kid,' it took a good mate beside me to have a chat so my bottom lip didn't tremble, as I would try think up quick ways of saying, 'Yes, I have lost my kid and I am not getting him back,'" he wrote. "As the run continued the onslaught was relentless, crossing over to the second lap I hear on the loud speaker ... 'Here comes old mate and it looks like he lost his kid,' more giggles from the crowd."

    The constant comments were harder to deal with than Troy imagined. Sometimes he explained why his stroller was empty, but other times it was just too painful, so he would simply smile and move on. "No you can't sit in and get a ride, no I am not picking my kid up on the last lap (wish I could)," he wrote. "By the last 10km both myself and Brett had finally realised that some of their laughter was because they didn't know what to say or didn't want to think about it. Innocently not realizing what it meant and not knowing what to do when some found out."

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  • Troy hopes he helped shatter the stigma around stillbirths and that increased awareness will support other families experiencing similar heartbreak.

    TG would have been around 18 months on the day of his dad's race. "I think the empty pram is here to stay ... not empty, my son was with us," he wrote.

    In addition to Troy's impactful run, TG's family created a fund-raising site, TG's Legacy, to honor his memory and support other grieving families. "TG's Legacy was created to give our son a voice and help others going through the pain of stillbirth," Troy wrote. "Running a marathon is not going to come close to the pain felt by hearing the words, 'I can't find a heartbeat,' but it will raise the awareness that it does happen (too much)." 

    TG's Legacy aims to educate the community, shatter the silence surrounding stillbirths, and make expectant families aware of movement monitoring. "Six families a day face the horrific outcome of stillbirth and of not being able to love and create a lifetime of memories with their child. The pain of not being able to do so stays with them forever," Troy and Kelly wrote on their Everyday Hero page.

  • "TG will always be on our minds and in our hearts and we strive daily to create a legacy he would be proud of."

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