I found out I was pregnant not long after a disaster of a half marathon. The whole race I knew something was wrong with my body. The past few weeks I just felt weak and couldn’t hit paces. During the race I crashed pretty hard after mile 6. I felt lightheaded and nauseous. My hands felt tingly. I was just off. I ran a half-way respectable time, chalked it up to an expensive training run , and moved on. Then, two pink lines and a diagnosis for anemia. It all made sense. And that was my first trimester half.
I set the goal of running a half in each trimester within a week of finding out. I’d seen other pregnant runners set the same goal and it felt ambitious, but not insane to attempt. I still had the endurance from my fall marathon cycle and I love lofty goals. I didn’t know if I could complete it, if I’d get terrible morning sickness or muscle pain, or if my body would let me run at all. But I figured I’d give it a go.
My first trimester, once I got my anemia under control was mercifully fine. I was a bit more tired, but in general felt pretty normal. I did have to cut back on my milage. I normally like to run maintenance of 40-45 mile weeks, but had to cut back to 25-30. But I was happy to be running! I haphazardly trained for my second half without a lot of structure. But, I was running it with a friend who was going for a goal time quite a bit slower than my usual pace, so I was less concerned than normal, and figured it would just be a fun run. Of course, running a spring race in the south is a very risky endeavor. And a heatwave hit us precisely when RNR Nashville was set to take place. They moved up the race time, issued heat warnings and ended up diverting the full marathoners once temps peaked over 85 degrees. It was a hot, soupy mess at 6am when we started. We ate otterpops, drank liters of water, shoved ice-cubes down our sports bras and ran through sprinklers. We did not care about time, we cared about safely finishing and it ended up being super fun (and the slowest half I’ll hopefully ever run). It was a great race, mostly because I got to run it with one of my best running friends. It was a 13.1 mile party (a very sweaty party).
Running a half marathon up until about 20-24 weeks isn’t particularly unusual in the running world. But once you start gaining weight and hormones shift (hey, relaxin!) it’s a bit of a gamble. You can be super athletic, but that doesn’t mean your body is going to cooperate. I felt fine until week 23 when I started getting some pelvic discomfort that was increasingly difficult to run through. I took 10 days off while traveling and hoped it was just a phase and that my body just needed some time to adjust. I had paid the SF Half exorbitant entrance fee and joined a training group for the third trimester half, thinking I needed all the motivation and support I could get. I was very invested in this one. I made it this far, and paid a lot of money. I would have been devastated to not be able to run. But luckily my body recovered and running was pain free again. I completed my 11 and 12 mile long runs with relative ease and felt ready to run.
I didn’t know what would happen in this half, but I knew as long as I maintained a 16min/mi pace I’d make the cut off. I also knew if I could run 5 miles I could then walk the rest if needed and be OK. I was ready to let my body dictate what it could do, and to listen. I met my training group in our corral, and together we took off. The first 6 miles are a rolling, net uphill. My legs loosened up after a few miles and I was happily maintaining 9:15-9:30 miles, figuring coming in under 2:10 would be awesome (my PR is 1:57). I felt amazing, and held back, never pushing the pace knowing we had a long way to go. Once we left golden gate park and the hills were behind us with 7 miles to go I let my stride open up a bit as we sailed across the city towards the bay. My pace dropped into the 8’s, down to 8:15. I had no idea what my overall time was but after 9 miles of running I felt confident I could come in sub 2:05. I was ecstatic, but still cautious. I felt strong, but I was getting tired as we passed 10 miles, and while normally I’d just enter the pain cave and push as hard as I could for the last 3.1 pregnancy is not a time for this sort of thing, and so I maintained a a pace I could talk through. My legs started to get a bit heavy and I allowed myself to slow a bit for two miles. And then mile 12 hit, I hadn’t had to stop, I was one mile from home. I was about to run the entirety of this half marathon! Spectators lined the streets, cheering us in. I saw my teammates, they screamed cheers as I passed and I ran beaming towards the finish line. We were running with marathoners and you could see the pain in their bodies, the air was filled with emotional energy, of perseverance, of bodies being pushed to their limits. And of course, I started crying. I was so over-the-moon happy and proud of this accomplishment. I know I was lucky, but also? I worked damn hard for this. I picked up my pace and ran a strong final mile, my legs didn’t hurt, I couldn’t really feel them I was riding such a high. I crossed the finish line just under two hours. I ran a sub-2 in my third trimester. That happened.
I am more proud of this series of races than I am of my PR or my marathons. I have never considered myself to be particularly athletic, but I completed something pretty impressive. And the outpouring of love and acknowledgement I got post race from my running community was incredible. In the bay area, where everyone seems to be super fast and accomplished I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider. But for the first time I knew I had done something that earned me a place in their ranks. And it felt damn good. And I’ve learned a lot about running through pregnancy. I’ve learned to trust my body. Three of my best races in my running career have been while pregnant, not necessarily my fastest, but where I felt the best. Instead of forcing a pace to hit a time I let my body dictate what it was capable of each mile, I trusted it to perform. And it did. And I ended up hitting faster times than I knew I was capable of. With the enviable negative splits to boot. I hope once I begin my postpartum come back to remember this, to trust my body and listen to it. To not force a timeline. It makes me hopeful for my future in running. That if I can run this strongly this far into pregnancy maybe goals like qualifying for Boston aren’t so farfetched. Maybe I can be fast.
Running is life giving, it has been from the first slow awkward 3-miler I ran back in Dublin two years ago. And continues, daily, to give me so much. It’s given me my friends, my community, confidence, and strength. It is one of the best things in my life and continuing to be able to run during pregnancy is an incredible gift. I am thankful for each run, for each day I can lace up my shoes. And I’m excited for the future!
Three Halfs in Three Trimesters. Check.