Sierra’s Fun Run Pregnancy Journey

I made a fitness resolution during my pregnancy to run one fun run each month until the birth of my son. I have a friend from college who ran 100 miles in a week (over a half marathon a day!) at 6 months pregnant and a couple of others who were out running on the day they gave birth. After feeling good about completing a 2 mile run, my social media shared a story of a woman who ran a 5k pregnant faster than I’ve ever ran, even in my very best shape. Pregnancy reinforces the lesson that everyone is different and experiences vary widely.I envisioned myself as someone who would be running most days while pregnant, maybe even flying through finish lines and outkicking people with a big bump of my own. However, pre pregnancy I was only up to 3 easy miles at a time after a long Achilles surgery journey, so I knew high activity levels were probably not realistic for myself. I still wanted to be active and set a fun goal to look forward to as I watched my body change, and I grew a whole new human, so a couple of months in I decided on my fun run resolution. What follows is a list of the runs I participated in and the lessons they carried. – Sierra

October/It’s OK to Take it Easy: Yes, I have heard about the elite runners who have competed in national championships while pregnant, and I much appreciate and applaud them for pushing the boundaries of what a woman’s body is capable of, but it’s also ok to not push the limits if it makes you uncomfortable. I abided by the advice of my OB to exercise “at a talking pace”. This was harder than I thought it would be as I was excited to be running again, and I had to remind myself to ease off the pace in both the Beat Beethoven 5k in Bend, Oregon (this creative challenge is to finish a 5k before the end of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony) and the Taps to Trails Relay in Bellingham (our Fairhaven Runners team was called “Beer for Breakfast”). I decided if I couldn’t thank the volunteers and cheer for anyone I passed along the way, I was going too hard and needed to smile and breathe, take a look around, and fully enjoy the scenery.

November/Goals Can be Flexible: I really wanted to run all of these 5ks without walking. Leading up to the Mukilteo Turkey Trot (Participants receive pajama bottoms in addition to a medal!) I was having some issues with pelvic pain while running. I managed to run the whole way on this Thanksgiving morning party, but after hearing experiences from women who tried to push through similar pains when pregnant and ended up injuring themselves, I decided it wasn’t worth it. My new goal was to finish each run in whatever form I could. Maybe I would be able to run them all, or maybe I would walk most of them. The important part became getting out the door with the community I love and experiencing the race day atmosphere however I could.

December/Cultivate Joy: In December I ran the Santa 5K at Cordata with my husband, Dillon, and it was magical. The night before the race it snowed… and snowed and snowed. We drove to the race in a winter wonderland dressed as Santa and his Christmas moose, and like a Christmas miracle my body felt decent enough to jog the whole way in the fresh, beautiful powder. One benefit to running a race “not for time” is that the nerves are non existent. You can wear fuzzy costumes and make people smile and get lost in the simple joy of movement without any expectation or comparison. I recommend everyone do a race in costume at some point in their running journey.

January/Inspire and be Inspired: In January I did the GBRC Lake Samish 6 mile run with my mother-in-law, Linda, and my newly noticeable baby bump. It was her first time attempting any sort of run in a long time due to a nagging knee pain. I asked if she would like to try run walking with me. One minute on and one to two minutes off. We made it around the lake this way, adjusting the time off if we needed to, and Linda was so thrilled to have run again (she felt better than I did after!). She said that she never thought of running just short bursts at a time and always thought she had to go the whole mile straight to be able to call it a run. She ended up deciding to keep trying the occasional run/walk after that and signed up for the next run with me as well. I was able to inspire her to give running another shot, and she inspired me with her joy, curiosity and willingness to jump into a new fitness goals in her sixties. You don’t have to break records and barriers to encourage and inspire someone.

February/Make the Most of It: At this point in my pregnancy I was starting to have a hard time exercising much beyond the flights of stairs at work. I hurt my hip for a week from standing up weird from the fitting stool, I still had intermittent pelvic pain, and the winter darkness and pregnancy was making me more and more tired. This month’s run was the Vegas Rock and Roll 5k (the first time I made a porta potty stop in a race this short – babies like to dance on your bladder). Linda and I were looking forward to some vacation sun. Instead, we shivered in the starting corral for over an hour, and just as we were crossing the start line it began to downpour. We were doing our same minute on minute off run/walk (sometimes more than a minute on because it was too cold and wet for walking) through the streets and passed rock bands and city lights with thousands of other drenched, costumed runners. We laughed down the homestretch of Fremont Street at how we were running in Vegas in weather from home (it even snowed the day we left). It was a long, cold journey trying to find a cab back to the very best feeling hotel shower. Sometimes you get conditions you don’t expect. Try to laugh at it, and find the fun anyways.

March/Find Your Support Team: It pays to have a support team when setting a goal. The harder the goal, the more crucial that becomes. Completing a 5k as a lifelong runner in relatively good health isn’t as difficult as qualifying for the Olympic trials (my husband’s goal), but it still helps to have someone in your corner cheering you on. Dillon went to every race with me. He didn’t always run by my side the whole time (sometimes he raced for the win) but it was fun to have someone I could count on to join the fun and keep me accountable. He did stay by my side at the BMO St. Patrick’s Day 5k because a hamstring injury kept him from racing. I wasn’t running at all by this time, but today we squeaked out one more minute on minute off run/walk through the beautiful Stanley Park in Vancouver. It was another rainy day, but we crossed the line together and headed straight for the St. Patty’s Day stew before my very best support person in running, life, and soon to be parenthood drove me to a pancake breakfast and then back home.

April/Make it Happen: The Birch Bay Road Race was the first fun run I wasn’t particularly excited about going to. I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable for weeks, and wasn’t sure how I would last another whole month of pregnancy(surprise, turns out I wouldn’t even last another week and was feeling awful for a reason!). It was supposed to be rainy and cold for the third 5k in a row, and I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to run/walk this one with my swollen feet and feeling of general grossness. But, I was determined to finish out the goal no matter what. Often times getting out the door and waiting for the gun to go off are the hardest parts, and once you are there it gets easier. The forecast ended up being wrong (as it often is in spring) and although it was chilly, there was not a drop of rain to be seen! After attempting to jog a few times, I conceded to a walk and eventually made it to the finish line. The race was well organized and the pretty course along the Birch Bay seaside with post run chips and beef sticks was just the right end to my fun run goal.

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