After over a year of covid postponements everyone has been finally getting to toe those big start lines and do some real racing again, something I had been really excited and hopeful about but with a total shift in my life path these big races had to take the back burner for another year. One of the hardest things about being pregnant over the last few months is the pang of missing out on those big races and big adventures. Regardless, I wanted to make my own goals to keep some purpose and give me a few mini adventures along the way. Enter my lightbulb moment – 26km at 26 weeks.
I feel really lucky that my pregnancy so far has been uncomplicated and I am still able to run with good frequency and cover some decent miles. I never push the pace and never run through discomfort. I think simple things like good rest, fuelling and sensible efforts have all meant I have so far kept consistency with a similar frequency to pre-pregnancy training but less mileage and much less intensity.
Quite early on in my pregnancy I had this idea of doing ‘26 miles at 26 weeks’, something I thought would be really achievable in those earlier weeks because, hey I am an ultra runner so what’s a marathon?! However, as the weeks progressed and the little passenger got heavier and more wriggly I realised although possible, a marathon distance wouldn’t be sensible for me. No problem though, I could still do ’26 at 26 weeks’ but switch it to kilometres rather than miles – genius! Metric marathon instead!
I feel I should add here that I have been running up to 12 miles in regular training on some weeks so this step up wasn’t huge and there was no pressure to do it or even finish it if I started – the sole aim was to have a mini point A to point B adventure on some of my beautiful local coastal trails.
I left on Saturday morning from Wheal Kitty with one day left in week 26 with the goal to happily trot on to the beach at Gwithian 26 kilometres later feeling strong and full of beans, no matter how long it took. My partner Dan was on hand with my trusty sidekick Albie dog to follow me along in the car, supplying me with drinks and snacks so I didn’t carry extra weight and also to check in that I was feeling good. Without him I think the distance would have felt a little overwhelming but seeing them every 4-6 miles was the perfect pick me up.
With baby happily sat in my pelvis (basically stood up) at times it felt like he/she was running along too, judging by the boots in the hip and lower organs I was getting. A happy *ahem* reminder of why I was keeping the effort mega easy and taking zero risks on any technical ground.
The route started in possibly the most difficult way possible, going down lots of uneven steps and then back up them through St Agnes cove. Something that even a few weeks ago I could have happily bounded across but now the weight has increased enough to feel slightly more uncertain of my balance, so super slow and steady was the goal. Imagine just 4 weeks ago I was bouncing up and down the steps and racing along the RAT route! Downhills now consist of me taking tinier steps (or even just walking it) and for the steeper up hills, the trusty hands-on-knees power hike stance I normally adopt is a hands-on-hips vertical hike due to too much weight at the front.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that every day I can feel different. One day I feel too hot, out of breath and tired but the next I feel almost normal. I’m starting to learn why having a baby can make you stronger because for a good while it makes you weaker and more appreciative of the amazing things your body can do. Constant adaptation, adjustment and trying stuff out.
I am sure for everyone there are long runs that feel like a chore. The ones where you check your watch and wish the miles away. This challenge was the opposite of any of these runs – there was no pace or time pressure and I felt truly grateful to be out on my local strip of Cornish coast with the luxury of my crew checking in on me. When I did check my watch it was to congratulate myself on how far we were running and feeling so good (also helped by plenty of Clif Shot Bloks & Rice Krispie squares).
As I ran the last 5kms to Gwithian beach I almost didn’t want it to be done. For me, running isn’t just for physical gains but it is my mental balancer. It’s the way I feel calm and connect with who I am. With so little advise out there for expecting mums who run more than a few times a week its been a steep learning curve trying to navigate what’s safe for both me and baby, what will keep me feeing happy and how this needs to change as I change. I’ve connected with a few super mums who have been on or who are currently navigating this journey which has given me the faith that just like before, listening to my body is the most important thing. I am humbled by what my body has already been able to do and I encourage other women to keep exploring what makes them happy during pregnancy. Be cautious but don’t give up who you are if it still makes you genuinely feel good and strong.