Throwback Thursday: Marathon Running While Pregnant

Today I fly out to Singapore for my third Singapore Marathon. I can’t help but remember that I ran this same race as my first full marathon in 2008. I was eight weeks pregnant then.

The run was set for December 2008 and I think I started really training for it around June. I was in good condition since I had been training for an office olympics program in the early part of the year. I just downloaded a free marathon training plan for beginners and tried to stay as close to the prescribed mileage as possible. I also joined fun runs almost every week (since registration fees were cheap then and sometimes we even got free race kits because it was company sponsored). I tried to pack as much training between June and September  since we were set to embark on our Manila to Morocco honeymoon in October. I knew that training will take a back seat during a long trip abroad.

Then a month before the marathon I learned that I was pregnant. I was ecstatic and then I remembered that I would be racing in four weeks. I started thinking, what if I still run? I have always been a stubborn person and once I set my sights on something that I really want to do, I can be pretty bullheaded. So I started searching the net for cases of women running marathons while pregnant. There were a few professional athletes who have successfully done it. If I remember correctly, both Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe continued to run with a bun in the oven. I talked to my husband and he was very supportive, yet stern when he said that I can run only if I get my doctor’s clearance.

I was nervous when I went to my first OB check up. After the standard tests and check up I mustered the courage to ask my doctor if she can give me clearance to run. To my relief she said that I may go ahead but that I had to go back right before flying to Singapore to make sure that the baby had a heartbeat. She said that it would be okay to run since my body was used to the training but that I should listen to my body very intently and be extra sensitive to any change in energy level, heart rate, body heat, etc. The mandate was to stop immediately if I feel anything wrong, if I’m in pain or if I get dizzy. A week after, we heard my baby’s heartbeat. That was my green light.

Eight weeks pregnant, I finished my marathon at five hours and ten minutes. I remember talking to my baby throughout the course telling him to hang on. It was a good thing that the Singapore heat was not that intense and there was a friendly cloud cover for the duration of the run. I took note of the following guidelines throughout the race:

  • Stay hydrated. It was very important to keep the body at a stable heat level. An increased temperature would be very harmful for the baby.
  • Breathe normally. Keep your breathing steady and avoid hyperventilating. As a rule of thumb, make sure that you can carry a steady conversation as you run.
  • Stop and assess. Every kilometer, I paused and checked if I was feeling anything weird. It also gave me a chance to shake up a bit of the fatigue and realign my running form.
  • Avoid getting hungry. I had with me a bar of Snickers since that was my favourite snack. I did not know much about sports nutrition then but I knew that I didn’t want to get dizzy from hunger.
  • Keep it steady. I kept to a constant speed from start to finish, making sure that my heart rate was stable. This also allowed me to have sustained energy throughout the race.

As I crossed the finished line, I was awash with gratitude and happiness. It was one of my most memorable experiences ever. I have run a lot more races since but nothing really beats your first time, especially if you cross it with a little one in your tummy. Maybe it was such a special moment that I ran my second marathon, fifteen weeks pregnant. So both my kids ran full marathons even before they were born. So every time my friends find out that I am running a marathon they ask if I am expecting. Marathon time now has a different meaning.

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Crossing the finish line with a baby bump and feeling like a winner.

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