If you are reading this because you are curious if it is safe to run a half marathon while pregnant, more specifically in your third trimester, you should consult your doctor or midwife. This is my experience and I am not qualified to give medical advice.
Since announcing my pregnancy, people have been very honest in letting me know their admiration, disapproval and disbelief that I was going to attempt to run a half marathon in San Francisco during my third trimester. Yesterday I ran the race, survived obviously and now I’m sharing my experience.
I trained all summer and fall after I was invited by ClassPass to join their blogger team. The longest run that I did was 10 miles but I should note for new readers, I ran the Boston Marathon 4 weeks pregnant so I was already in running shape. I continued to run about 3-4 times a week, usually between 3 and 6 miles, some speed work that included walk/run intervals. My plan was to do a walk/run during the race. I chose to run 3 minutes and walk for 1 minute, with additional walking up the steep hills. I had hoped I would finish under 2:30 but was prepared for somewhere between an 11 and 13 minute mile.
I laid out my Nike Women’s outfit the night before and woke up at 5:15am. Breakfast was a whole wheat bagel with Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter and cup of black coffee. Usually, I bring my own breakfast and have a pre-workout energy drink. I was told to avoid Devil’s Claw by the MGH Nutritionist so I couldn’t take my trusted Vega Energizer.
We stayed at the Westin in Union Square and were able to walk right out to the corral areas for the 6:30am starting time. It was pretty well organized but as usual had super long bathroom lines… I mean there were 20,000 women running, I expected this.
I signed up for the 9-10 minute mile corral initially since that would be my running pace. I wasn’t tired, or nervous at all really. I was ready to run and excited to get the race over with. A few people commented on my bump and how impressed they were that I was running. It made me feel good, not judged. It was perfect running weather in my opinion in the mid 60’s.
Since wave one was so large, it took about 20 minutes for wave two to cross the starting line. I got emotional, put my earphones in, started my watch and began running for two.
The first mile was a mild steady incline. I was shocked at how many people were walking from the start, especially since everyone ahead of me should have been running a sub 9 minute mile. I know I said I wanted to do a 3:1 run:walk but I couldn’t help myself to start with a 4:1. I told myself after the first couple miles I would follow my plan.
The first “bathroom” was one port-a-potty with a huge line. “Seriously??! One bathroom! I hope this is not the case for the rest of the race,” I thought to myself. Luckily it wasn’t. I didn’t stop at only two bathroom locations. This was one of them.
I was warned that there would be a giant hill at mile ten but other than that it was fairly “flat” for San Fransisco. There were a couple hills that I was not expecting and I gladly walked them. Again, to my surprise there were tons of people walking as well! I thought it would be hard for me to walk during a race but since there were so many other runners walking, it wasn’t at all.
I was running around a 10 minute mile and with my 3:1 walk breaks averaging an 11 minute mile. I would sometimes forget to walk but never ran longer than 5 minutes. I never vlog races or stop to take pictures or selfies but since I wasn’t going for time, I made it a priority to document my experience. So did many other runners, I mean with views like this, how could you not?
I walked the water stations which were along the course in about 2 mile increments. It’s important to keep your body temperature down as a pregnant athlete and the hydration helps regulate. It also allowed me to lower my heart rate. I wore a Garmin gifted to me through ClassPass and kept my HR below 160 bpm. Around mile 5, similar to my 10K I noticed my pelvic area begin to feel sore. I know many people who stopped running during their 6 month of pregnancy. Now in my 7th, I think I finally realize this feeling.
So how does it feel? Like someone, a professional NFL kicker, kicked you between the legs or an uncomfortable seat during a 2 hour indoor cycling class. Your hips are stretching to make way for baby and it’s just an unfortunate feeling. You can’t help but waddle instead of walk.
The feeling obviously increased as the race progressed. I began to take more pictures and videos after seeing everyone else doing it. As a result, my pace slowed down dramatically.
For mid run fuel, I grabbed a vanilla Honey Stinger gel. I also had a few Pro Bar energy blocks around mile 8 and then 10.
Mile 10… oh, the mile long steep hill that people warned us about? I gladly walked up but the energy was contagious! Spotify was playing music, the Nike Trainers were cheering along with a bunch of other spectators. The view was breathtaking. One trainer shouted at us from the side lines, “Just two minutes and you’ll be up at the top. You can do it, just run for 2 minutes.” Good effort cute dude, but this lady kept walking and snapping pictures and taking video. So did many of the other runners. It seemed like everyone had the same game plan as me, to run for fun and finish.
I don’t know why I thought I would be one of the last ones to finish. I actually called Nick at mile 10 to tell him how ridiculously steep and long the hill was and how glad I was pregnant because I’m too competitive to have walked it if I weren’t. I also called to tell him I felt great and would be finishing soon. He, along with my mother and many concerned readers, wanted me to “take it easy” and “listen to my body.”
After the mile uphill challenge, the pelvis area was ready to be done. It was a steep downhill and then flat to the finish. I continued to do my 3:1 run:walk intervals.
My face here pretty much sums up how I felt. “I’m gonna finish but I’m not enjoying this anymore.” If you didn’t know I was pregnant, you totally would just think I put on a solid 15 lbs in this picture – which I have, but I swear there is a baby in there as well.
As I neared the finish line, I ran the last 5 minutes. I stopped my music to hear the crowd and overheard a lady go, “That girl is pregnant.” Her tone sounded snarky but I think it was more me being self conscious. I crossed the finish line and wiped away a few tears, happy to be done, proud that I did it and just emotional because I’m 7 months pregnant and I ran 13.1 miles with my little man!
I finished with a time of 2:37 which is 50 minutes slower than my half marathon PR. I want to tell you that I don’t care but I am pretty proud that I came in the top 49% of my age group.
We took some pictures, I had a banana and Vega Post Workout mocha mix with water right away. I sat down and needed help getting up. My legs were not sore like I ran a marathon but my hips were very achey and it was impossible to stand on one leg without holding on to someone oddly. My walk was slow and looked like a 9 month pregnant lady waddle.
We had brunch at Greens Restaurant and I enjoyed the Pinnacle Eggs which came with tortillas, and an assortment of salsas. As well as some pancakes The ClassPass Runner team was made up of 5 bloggers: Myself, Anne, Emily, Jane, Kristen and Jackelyn. We took a silly group picture that I kind of ruined? The side view is very different from the front.
Anne, Emily and I went back to the race village and stretched on the green while enjoying the perfect weather. We finally took a Lyft back to the hotel for our massages with Zeel! After my first SF visit, my only complaint was how hard it was to get around the city. We had to walk 3 miles home after running the Urbanathlon 5 years ago because we couldn’t get a cab. Thank god for ride sharing services as that is no longer an issue. Lyft was always just a minute away.
ClassPass got us some post workout treats including caramel popcorn from Kara’s Cupcakes. Baby hadn’t noticeably kicked me all day until I had some! There were some mean comments on my Instagram and YouTube from anonymous users saying I shouldn’t run and that I was going to have a miscarriage. I deleted them because they felt disingenuous but when baby hadn’t moved I feared for the worst. Emily told me that I may not have felt him all day due to Braxton Hicks contractions which firm up your uterus. She couldn’t feel her sons kicks when this happened either. I had no idea and was just happy when he finally woke up. Today he has been ridiculously active.
Zeel is like the Lyft of massages. You book online using an app and then the massage therapist comes to your home or hotel in my case. I had a “prenatal” massage but was more of a post workout deep tissue with prenatal considerations. My therapist Amber was amazing and was not afraid to go deep which is my complaint with a standard prenatal. They are not in Boston yet, but are in many west coast cities.
Post massage, my body was tired. I didn’t feel great. I laid in bed until it was time to eat dinner with my high school friend Jess, who now lives in SF. I was in bed by 9:30 and fell right asleep.
Twenty-four hours later, I feel good! My hips are still slightly sore but not bad. I do not regret signing up for the half marathon at 28, almost 29 weeks pregnant. I loved the challenge and know I would not have been this active during my pregnancy if I hadn’t. I’m excited to start using indoor cycling, strength training, yoga and Pilates exclusively. I may run 3 miles here or there but I think my hips will appreciate a nice break.
Moral of the story: You can run a half marathon during your third trimester as long as your doctor says it is OK and you feel comfortable doing it. My midwife said that as long as I felt good, I could continue, which I did. Every pregnancy is different I know and if I was any bigger, I may have had more discomfort. Happy to be done, but happy I did it.
Did you run during pregnancy? If so or if not, when did you stop?
I was not compensated for my participation but was give a complementary entry to the race and membership during my training from ClassPass. They also provided us with our hotel. ClassPass also initiated and negotiated a variety of perks for us during our visit, including Lyft credits, brunch, and Zeel services in exchange for social media exposure.