I ran the San Diego marathon two months pregnant with my son Matthew, in 2002. A month later I hopped on a plane and flew to England for a visit. My doctor was completely confident with my ability to run the marathon pregnant – I mean, I had been training for six months and was in good shape. My OBGYN had no problems with my running a marathon – even one I had to fly to, and one that would be in significantly warmer weather.
The March 2008 issue of Runner’s World shows marathon maven, Paula Radcliffe, who, when she was six months pregnant or so, ran an easy 10K in 45 minutes in London’s Hyde Park. Radcliffe, who is has won six out of the seven last marathons she’s raced in, ran all the way through her pregnancy. What’s sick, is that 10 months postpartum, she won the New York City Marathon last November. Now that’s a runner – hell, I was lucky I choked out a 5k nine months after Matthew’s birth!
Other women have trained and raced during their pregnancies – others like Catherine Ndereba, a Kenyan marathon sensation, 2004 Olympic Trials 5000-meter winner Shayne Culpepper, and Ingrid Kristiansen who put Radcliffe to shame. She won the 1984 Hourston Marathon five months post partum.
So for those of us who wonder when it’s right to get back on the track, road, trail, or treadmill after having a baby, you have to know your body. Whether you had a C-section or natural birth, or have post partum issues such as depression, exhaustion, or other issues, running can help because we cannot be depressed if we are trying to run a few miles. You spend more time thinking about how wierd it feels and that can take our mind off of any stresses having to do with raising a new baby or nursing our birthing scars. It’s amazing how much exercize can heal us after giving birth. I wish I had tried a little harder after giving birth to Matthew, but then again, five years and another baby later, I am running faster than ever and training with much more intensity. Today, for example, I ran 12 miles.
For those of you out there planning on training through your pregnancy – know that your blood volume goes up by as much as 40 percent, your resting heatbeat rises by as much as 15 beats, and your blood will have more oxygen in it, so it will circulate faster – a major benefit while training*. Remember the extra weight will put pressure on your body, and mind your hips, knees, and feet. You’ll be able to stretch well – because our ligaments loosen up during pregnancy, but be mindful afterward – you might be tight and have some aches and pains. For example, my feet were killing me. I went to the doctor only to have the podiatrist tell me to buy wide shoes as my feet had widened during pregnancy. And now with the ligaments in my body tightening up, my feet suffered – it was wierd, but hey, if that’s all I have to worry about after giving birth, I’ll take it.
I took the opportunity to be outfitted with new orthotics. I went right to Metro Run & Walk -my local running store, and bought my Asics in a 9W. I was a little skeptical about the wide size at first because my feet were swimming around in the shoe, but now that I’m used to the extra room, I’d never run in anything other than a wide. I have enough room to let my toes splay and my feet have not hurt since. I am also mindfull of the shoes I wear – no heels over three inches, and even then, I won’t wear anything higher than a 2 1/2 heel to work. It’s not worth beating up my feet over fashion. Pointy toes? No way, they are bad for the feet. I look not for the completely rounded toes, but for shoes that don’t go down to a point.
Paula Radcliffe and other running mothers are an inspiration. As for her running stamina after having her baby, she quipped “Why do people think you couldn’t be the same athlete?” And she’s absolutely right. Here’s a woman who is a professional runner, who go right back to work and showed us that we can indeed do great things right after having our children. Sure, most of us aren’t training at a 5:30 pace (make that 6:30 when she was pregnant), but then again, most of us aren’t training in Monaco 4 months out of the year just because we like it there.
Despite Paula’s advantages, she is a woman who had a baby just like many of us – and if she and other athletes can get back to her running days before baby, so can we.
*Source: Nadya Swedan, M.D., The Active Woman’s Health and Fitness Handbook.