My Pregnant Half Marathon Experience

>> Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let's recap: I've already covered how to train for a half marathon (or other race) pregnant, as well as how I chose my particular half marathon race. Today I'll tell you all about my race day experience: How I felt, how I fueled, and -- overall -- how I fared.

It's a wordy post, so get ready to read! And for those of you who'd rather not -- here's the short of it:

  1. Accept that despite being prepared, your body may not cooperate the day of the event.
  2. Remember that you're pregnant. Your baby really does come first. And that doesn't make you any less of a runner.
  3. That being said, if you're feeling OK -- running a half marathon is fine, if it's an activity you're used to and if your medical provider knows about it.
  4. Think ahead. Bring food and other fuel you're used to consuming. And consider having a non-runner support person on the sidelines.
  5. If at any time you don't feel well on the course, walk for a bit. Or get off the course completely. There's no shame in it.
  6. Other runners will likely pass you. Runners you may feel aren't as fast or "good" as you. Deal with it!
  7. Along these same lines: Forget pace. Live in the present. Enjoy yourself and your new addition.
  8. Take a photo or two to remember your time -- good or bad.
  9. Eat, eat, and eat some more when you're done. You need to replenish your calories/energy.
  10. Celebrate. In a low-key way. Again: Don't do much after the race. I laid in my bed and watched movies/ate the rest of the day.

The morning of the race was tough. I mean REALLY tough. I was just 12 weeks at that point. And I still had morning sickness every single morning. I rarely got fully sick, but I had this mean problem with dry heaving. (I'm sure that's just what you wanted to read.) So, when I woke up at 5AM -- a full hour earlier than usual -- I immediately ran downstairs to grab a Greek yogurt. My favorite sickness semi-cure.

Problem #1: That extra hour without sleep sent my body into ultra-sick mode. Honestly, it was one of my worst episodes yet. Just thinking about it now has me clutching my stomach. I couldn't get a single spoonful of yogurt down my throat. Thankfully, I knew what to do: I had to eat a popsicle. ASAP. I learned the trick through experimentation, but something about the cold always shocked my system back into cooperation after an acute attack. At least temporarily.

Problem #2: I couldn't get anything else down. That's when the BIG dilemma hit me. If I couldn't eat anything before the race, how would I be able to run it? Not only energy-wise. But SAFETY-wise? I continued getting ready because I felt better -- typically -- after getting up and about. Threw on my shorts, shirt, and race bib. Stretched a bit. Tried to down some granola bars and applesauce.

A few bites agreed. Phew.

And then I cried. I was completely prepared to run the race, but I began to feel there was a HUGE possibility I wouldn't be able to. I felt t.e.r.r.i.b.l.e. And my heightened pregnancy emotions didn't help.


We got in the car -- box of granola bars in my lap -- and drove to the start line. My plan at that point was to continually monitor my body and eat as much as possible. As I woke up more, I felt better. New problem: It was raining. Not sprinkling, but steadily raining. Would I get sick being outside in the weather for 2 hours? So much worry. I was beginning to think the whole thing just wasn't worth it.

Thankfully, my in-laws were up visiting for the weekend. My decision to run the race ultimately came to a YES because I knew if I couldn't do it, a couple miles in, I could stop and watch with them. My mother-in-law was nice enough to carry a mixture of half water/half lemonade (I'll get to fueling in a bit) that I'd be able to gulp at miles 3, 7, and 11. I had packed a set of fresh, dry clothes. Though I didn't want to experience yet another D(id) N(ot) F(inish), I knew if I didn't at least try, I'd always wonder -- because at that point, I really WAS starting to feel better -- if I could have completed the race.

NOTE: Unless you have systems in place to stop easily, if you aren't feeling well -- it's OK not to run. Your health and, more importantly, your baby's health trumps finishing a 13.1 mile course. Had my in-laws not been there that day, I likely would have stayed home.

MILES 1-10:

After a chilly 20-minute wait in the rain, the gun went off. During the wait, I downed another granola bar (2 total) and package of applesauce. It was the amount of food I was used to eating, but I had brought much more with me. When I found out I was pregnant, I switched fueling methods. Instead of gel backs and blocks, I used natural, unsweetened applesauce (below) for a boost. I brought Fig Newman's for some extra energy, as pregnant women often encounter low blood sugar while running.

The first three miles were surprisingly fantastic. As I had experienced before, my morning sickness pretty much went away after a mile of slow plodding. The course was flat, so I cruised along -- warming up and taking the chance to start feeling myself again. After 3 short miles, I already had to pee.

I ducked into a conveniently placed porta potty and continued on my way. The next 3 miles were sort of a blur. I felt fine. My pace was steady. The rain continued, but actually felt nice -- not too cold. I had to pee again. So, I stopped. That's another tip, though. Try to run a race that's set up with tons of bathroom and fuel stops.

You'll need them.
You'll love them.
You'll wish there were more of them.

Miles 6 through 10 ran right through my neighborhood. There were tons of spectators out cheering us all on. I recognized some people. That kept me going. And I laughed because the mile 9 rest stop was a block away from our house! Of course, I took full advantage, but this brings me to my biggest race frustration: Being passed by other runners.

It might be a bit of a tangent, but with all my stops, I fell back in the pack to a group of much slower runners than I'm used to being around. I, myself, was a much slower runner that day than my usual self -- so it's not really a pride thing. But maybe it was. Despite what anyone will tell you, there's a certain level of adjustment that goes along with running pregnant. A shift of goals from being PRs and other awesome feats -- to just maintaining and continuing the activity. Period.

MILES 10-13.1:

I ended up keeping my pace steady throughout the beginning of the run, but I'm pretty sure I sped up a bit from miles 10 to 12. I found some people to talk to along the way, which was both a good and bad thing. The course was flat at that point and the conversations were interesting. Good: It was a nice distraction. Bad: It made listening to my body difficult. So, around mile 12, I decided to shake off on my own.

I fueled when I saw my mother-in-law by chugging a nice amount of the lemonade mixture. That's another tip: Even if you don't feel hungry or thirsty along the way, drink and eat anyway. It can only help you and your baby. It may slow you down. It may require you to stop more frequently. But it's worth it.

That last mile was my favorite. Slight downhill. The rain had let up, but the clouds kept the heat away. I gathered from the people around me that we would finish in under 2 hours 10 minutes. Though I tried my best not to have expectations, I secretly wanted to finish in under this time.


And I did! My official time was 2:09:58. A far cry from my previous half times (which fall around 1:46) . . . but I had FINISHED and felt GREAT. The post-race party featured bagels, Chobani, fruit, cookies, sports drinks, and more. I indulged in everything. Stephen did a great job, too -- and his parents wanted to go out and celebrate. I did, as well. However, when we got home, the rush I felt upon finishing was gone.

I was TIRED.

So, I let them go out and have fun without me (as if that's possible!). They brought me back some food. But I spent the rest of the day in bed. By choice. Watching movies and thanking our little girl (though we didn't know she was a she at the time) for sticking with me all those miles.


In the weeks after the race, I had some trouble finding my place with running and pregnancy. I didn't schedule any races, but I maintained a long run of around 15K every other week. I kept this up until recently, when I ran my last-hoorah long run.

After 20 weeks, I am realizing I need to start slowing down my activity level. You can read more on (never home)maker, baby!

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