I’m currently training for the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon and my training for this race doesn’t really resemble any previous training periods. That’s because I’ll be 23 weeks pregnant on race day. I’ve already run 2 half marathons while pregnant (week 6 and week 12) so I’ve learned a bit about what to expect when training for a long distance running event with a bun in the oven.
We’ll start with a disclaimer: All women’s bodies are different. I don’t recommend running a half marathon pregnant if you have never run one before (even if you’re run just one or two, I’d probably say you may want to reconsider running your 2nd or 3rd while pregnant since your body may not be used to the distance, but that is up to you!). I’m not a physician and all my advice here is based on my experience. Talk to your doctor and only do what is comfortable to you!
- Make Training Guidelines, Not Plans. Why? Because you won’t follow it exactly and that’s ok. Instead, make weekly goals such as “run 3 times a week,” or “try for a long run over 8 miles this week.” Those loose goals were much easier to meet and also easier to let go of when/if they didn’t happen. Running while pregnant is a whole different ball game – sometimes your body just won’t want to run as far as you had hoped or even at all. I hope it’s also a given that unless you are a trained professional athlete, you shouldn’t be doing any tempo runs or track workouts so a training plan would be pretty vanilla when you’re pregnant anyway.
- WATER WATER WATER. Any doctor (or google search) will tell you that the most important things to consider if you decide to run while pregnant is to a) run slow enough that you can have a conversation and b) drink lots of water. This also means you’re going to have to pee a lot but it’s worth it for your baby’s health and safety! Hydrate! I bring a water bottle with me during most runs over 3 miles.
- Be Flexible With Long Run Distance. I don’t ever go out thinking “I MUST run 10 miles today.” In past half marathon training, I’ve run up to 14 miles on a long run before the race. However, that kind of distance is unnecessary when you’re going to be cruising along at a conversational pace on race day with all the bathroom, walk and water breaks you and the little energy-zapper inside you desire. Ideally, you’ll run at least one, if not two 10 mile long runs before the race (any longer is totally optional in my opinion and likely not worth the added recovery time), but don’t expect to follow a traditional plan where you’re building the long runs and doing something like 8, 9, then 10 miles each consecutive weekend. You may not feel up for 10 miles on the day you planned it, so it’s better to try for 10 miles about a month out from the race (assuming you built up for it a bit!). If you nail that 10 miler – great! You can do another 10 miler in a week or two and feel good about your fitness. However, if you put all your long run chickens in the 2 week before-race day long run basket and then it turns out to be 100 degrees or your legs feel like you’re pulling them through mud that day, then you’re going to either push yourself too hard in a last ditch effort to complete the 10 miles (BAD) or you’re going to skip it all together and never get in a 10 miler (better, but ideally you’ll get one in!).
- Plan an Escape Route. Ideally during any run, you’ll plan a route that allows you to cut things short if need be (treadmills are probably a late in pregnancy best friend especially with a child playing monkey bars on your bladder). Also, plan a route with lots of bathrooms! If you normally do an out and back, park your car in the middle of the stretch that you run on and do two out and backs in each direction. That way, if you suddenly need to walk the whole way back to your car, you won’t be farther than 2.5 miles instead of 5 (on a 10 mile route example). And of course, always run with your phone so you can call someone to pick you up if something happens!
- Don’t Wear a GPS Watch on Race Day. I wore my Garmin during my first pregnant half marathon mostly because I also chose not to wear a timing chip (I was irrationally worried that someone would care to enough look up my time and know I was pregnant). However, the Type-A runner in me STILL looked at my watch. I created a goal for myself to not run a personal worst (my first half marathon was a 2:13) and didn’t fully let myself relax on the run course. However, at Zion, I ran watch free and it was SO much better. I still wore a timing chip so in the end I knew my pace, but during the race I could care less. I stopped three times for the bathroom, thanked the volunteers, chatted with fellow runners, stopped for photos and enjoyed every minute. There’s not point in caring about the clock while pregnant.
I’m sure you can see the trend in all of this advice – every pregnancy is different and every day during your pregnancy will be different so there is no way to have expectations or goals. Be ok with walking up hills (or walking at any time!). Be ok with thinking you’re going to run 5 mile after work and instead heading straight for the couch for a Scandal marathon. Be ok with wasting time in long porto-potty lines during the race if you have to go. Be ok with getting passed by elderly women and people pushing double strollers. The only goal you should have for yourself while running during pregnancy is to keep you and your baby safe. And hopefully have some fun in the process!
If you’ve raced while pregnant, what did you find that worked for you? If you’ve never been pregnant, do you think you’ll run races or skip them for the 9 months?