I started running about 10 years ago as a way of keeping fit. When I moved to Australia I continued to run and moving back to the UK just over a year ago I was introduced to parkrun by a friend. I thought it would be a great way to get to know people as I was new to the area and I have definitely met some amazing individuals.
When I found out I was pregnant in April 2017 I was determined to keep running and exercising as close to the birth as I could. I really do believe that if you look after your body it will look after you. Besides, this was something I had always done.
I’m not going to say it was easy. On some mornings, especially in the first trimester, dragging myself out of bed of a morning to go to my weekly Longrun Meadow parkrun was hard work but I was always buzzing when I came home. I took it steady and my runs became slower. I wanted to keep within my cardio fitness level and make sure I didn’t push my body too hard. For me it was about maintaining my fitness and not improving it.
By the second trimester I started to feel a lot better and my running got easier. I had cut my distances down from 10k to about 5-6k as my pelvis was struggling with the added weight of the baby. The best thing about this trimester was I was feeling my baby move and kick. When I started running, the baby would settle and go quiet but then consistently gave me a kick around 4k. I don’t know whether he was spurring me on or telling me he’d had enough, but it felt great and always made me smile.
I made a “baby on board” t-shirt to wear while I was running. I wanted to let people know in case I didn’t feel well or something happened and I needed help. I also wanted to encourage other women to continue to run while pregnant. My husband was amazing and ran faithfully with me, encouraging me even though he is much faster than me. I began to wear a bump support belt, which was the best thing I brought throughout my pregnancy. The encouragement and support I received at Longrun Meadow parkrun was unbelievable. Some people were shocked but everyone I spoke to encouraged me, telling me how well I was doing.
As I entered the third trimester I struggled to run 5k training runs. As the bump grew my speeds slowed down and I became increasingly aware of the signals my body was giving me. One thing running while pregnant has really taught me is to listen to your own body and respect it. I have always been really competitive, but I was beginning to learn I had to rein my competitive streak in and I began to actually enjoy my running experience rather than always chasing a PB.
By the time I did my last parkrun on 14 October 2017 I was 32 weeks pregnant. My finishing time was a respectable 31 minutes 3 seconds. The next day my pelvis was so stiff I struggled to walk. After days rest I felt better and went out for a short 3k training run, again my pelvis ached. I decided this was the time to stop running. It was hard to hang up my running shoes but I knew it was temporary and I volunteered instead so I could still see everyone and continue to be part of parkrun.
My baby boy, Toby, was born a week early on 12 December 2017. Toby made his first parkrun guest appearance on Christmas Day at just two weeks old. Everyone was so excited to meet him and the volunteers did a hilarious flashback photo sequence on the parkrun facebook page to when I was running in my “baby on board” t-shirt to the “parkrun baby’s” first guest appearance. We’ve become regulars at parkrun, volunteering where we can or just turning up to clap daddy and everyone else on.
My story doesn’t stop there. I was determined to get back to running. I went out every day for short walks after the birth and I continued to build up very slowly, again listening carefully to my body. I trusted it to tell me when I had had enough. After my six week check up I attempted a short run, only 1.7k but it was a run. It felt amazing and I felt like a gazelle. From there I have gradually built up my distance and endurance until, 10 weeks after giving birth, I ran my first parkrun recently since I was 32 weeks pregnant. It felt great and the support I received from everyone who recognised me was amazing. Toby has even had a jumper knitted for him by one of the lovely parkrun regulars!
My message to any woman who wants to keep running while pregnant is you CAN do it! Listen to your body, rest when you need to, there is no shame in stopping to walk to get your breath back. There are loads of studies into the benefits of exercising while pregnant, in particular the largest every study into running during pregnancy, which was carried out thanks to parkrunners (click here to read the results). For me personally, I feel all my hard work has paid off and I have a very healthy, happy and lively baby. My new aim is to run my local 10k in September. We have our running buggy all ready for Toby when he is six months old and I am sure he will become passionate about parkrun just like his parents are.
The findings of the largest ever study of running during pregnancy were published in March 2018, thanks to the contribution of 1,293 female parkrunners from around the world. The results are here.
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