It’s over, fini, done. On 23 December 2012 and 23 weeks pregnant I ran my last run of the year, and the final run until I give birth (eek!).
It was an easy decision in the end. I have been saying I want to keep running until 6 months, but the actual running itself has been less and less fun, and on the final run it moved from simply being uncomfortable to painful.
I ran to the Emirates Stadium, but as soon as I got there, less than 15 minutes’ into the run, the top of my womb (I assume) started aching and kept hurting when I stopped to walk. This can’t be good, I thought, but of course I tried running again a few times on the way back, in between power-walking breaks.
By the time I got back home I knew the game was up. I’ve literally had a good run and really can’t complain. My pregnancy has been trouble-free and I’d like to keep it that way. If running isn’t fun anyway then it’s no great loss to give it up for a while. I am just going to have to learn to enjoy swimming and pretend that I love yoga. Ugh.
I’ve had a fantastic year’s running. In Spring I went sub-3.5 hours in the brilliant North Dorset Village Marathon, and in Summer I got the bus 3 miles down the road to watch the Olympic Men’s and Women’s marathons in the flesh, for free. More importantly, I got my trainers on, left the flat, plodded around the streets and covered the miles on mornings, evenings, weekends, in the rain, in the sun, over short distances and 20 mile shockers, up hills, through parks, with friends and on my own.
Next year will be full of new adventures. I’m signing up to run the Great Eastern Run in Autumn, which will mark my official return to competition. I will be taking it easy, though, and getting my sister round her first half-marathon in one piece.
Now, I think there’s something else to do before then…
There are only so many 3 mile routes one can run around one’s home. I currently feel like Ms Pac-man, constantly turning and re-turning the same corners again and again in search of the one elusive road I have not yet been down.
This makes it sound like I am out there pounding the pavements every day like Rocky in training. I am not. Last week I ran twice. This week I haven’t yet run at all. I will, though. I am trying to get to 6 months’ pregnant before reassessing the situation, so I still have a month of running to go.
Speaking of Rocky, I have just realised that I haven’t yet done the 1.4 miles from my flat to the steps of the Emirates Stadium to run up and down them and then come home. The reason I haven’t run that route is because it is ugly, and crosses lots of busy roads. The problem with most routes near my house is that they are too ugly, too hilly, too boring or have too many busy crossings. Or that they have slightly uneven pavements. Basically I am just really getting fed up of running 3 mile circuits of my house, and any excuse will do.
Lately the circuits haven’t even been 3 miles long. On Saturday I managed a whole 23 minutes (which at current speed is about 2 miles) of running, not including frequent walking breaks. My legs felt like sandbags and my overwhelming emotion, running on a beautiful sunny bright morning when I should have been full of Christmas cheer, was fear that I would lose control of my bladder.
I didn’t, though.
So I had the inevitable conversation with my mum about running in pregnancy.
I haven’t been lying to her, I just haven’t actually told her I’m running and she hasn’t asked. That is, she hadn’t asked. On Sunday night she was still crying with joy from hearing about the me feeling the baby kick for the first time when she sobbed out, “You’re not running, are you?”.
What could I do? I couldn’t lie to her, she’s my mother. I’m not 16 trying to deny a visit to the pub. I’m a 37 year old woman doing something I believe is good and healthy. Still, it didn’t go well. She loves me and she wants the best for me, and I love her and I want the best for her. I just don’t think that has to involve not running.
On Monday morning I had planned to run before work. The alarm went off. Mr Notajogger got up for his run. I heard the sound of rain on the windows. I thought about my mum. I hit snooze.
This morning I planned to run before work. The alarm went off. Mr Notajogger did not get up for a run. I heard the sound of rain. I thought about my mum. I got up, put my kit on and left the house.
I ran very slowly, perhaps more carefully than normal. I avoided slippery piles of leaves. I tried to avoid puddles, with mixed success. I walked for a few minutes half way around my circuit.
I don’t feel triumphant about my run. I don’t feel guilty either. Ok, maybe I feel a little bit guilty.
Sitting here at my desk thinking about it, I’m aware that I haven’t sorted it out in my brain yet. I wish there was some proper research out there I could quote to my mum to make her feel better, but there really isn’t. Even if there were, it wouldn’t be into my pregnancy, or my baby, or my running, so I don’t think it would help.
I want to be a good mother, but my mother is a good mother. So what does that make me?
The baby has been kicking me all morning, reminding me that everything is fine.
It is fine, I think.
Nobody is around to see how slow you run or notice you stopping to walk.
Today I’m 18 weeks pregnant. I look like I’ve eaten three bowls of pasta and they’ve somehow lodged themselves below my belly button. You wouldn’t give up your seat for me on the train, but you might consider giving pointing me towards a gym (if you were a total bitch).
I’ve been trying to keep to the plan of running 3 x 3 miles every week, and sometimes I’ve managed it and sometimes I haven’t. It’s not that I’m less motivated, it’s just that I have more excuses. Sleeping badly, feeling tired, needing to wee every 20 minutes (seriously), weird stretching pains. I could go on, but I really shouldn’t. Apart from the odd pains and the weeing none of these excuses are any different or more valid than those of all runners when the alarm goes off at 5:55 and they don’t want to get up.
This morning I did get up. It was dark, but compared to Wednesday’s funfest of rain, wind and dark, at least it was only dark. I pulled on my biggest running gear (now looking comically small), a weird belly support tube thing, and ambled out of the door. It was blackest night, even at 6.15am. There were no stars and no lights in the windows of the tower blocks. I skirted the busier roads of Finsbury Park, hoping for tail-lights and milkmen to break up the gloom. There weren’t any. Running up Hornsey Road, I spied a black bra lying in the gutter.
There might be one good reason for running in the dark, but there are plenty more not to.
Last night I raced a plastic bag home and lost.
I was running along Brecknock Road with the wind behind me when a white shape hove into view on my left, at knee height. It was a thin plastic bag, filled with air and ballooning in loops above the pavement. I believe it was from Sainsburys.
La Sainsbury was a formidable foe. She edged ahead of me a few times, taunting me with her speed and agility. Dancing hypnotically, she dashed back and forth in front of me like a chaotic metronome. I almost ran into a bollard. Turning a corner, the race got interesting. La Sainsbury dashed into my legs, wrapping herself around a shin. I tried to kick her off without breaking stride, like a can-can dancer who’d had enough. I failed. The old bag clung on, then dashed away, then lodged around my shoe.
We continued our tango for about half a mile, La Sainsbury and I, but in the end only one of us could triumph. Just before Tufnell Park tube she sailed upwards on a gust of wind ahead of me and out into the night.
I plodded home.
EDIT – a friend has pointed out that Sainsburys bags are orange. I like the way La Sainsbury sounds however, so I am letting it stand.
It’s a beautiful thing to be running again. Sadly this does not mean that all runs will be beautiful.
On Monday morning I left the house at 6.20am and stepped straight into a dark, damp Dickensian fog. Mist hung over the roads with a quiet menace, creeping down the hills, suffocating street lamps, muffling every sound. I hunched my shoulders, even though it wasn’t cold, as the fog gradually soaked my head and ran in tepid droplets down my spine.
My running wasn’t pretty either. Being pregnant means I have a ready-made excuse to wimp out/ cut short and I was happy to use it. As soon as I’d done 10 minutes I was looking to turn back. In the end I managed 21.28 minutes’ running, with a bit of walking up the hills.
This morning’s run looked similar. It was dark. It was damp. The fog had retreated however and my mood improved accordingly. I’d been awake since 5am so by 6 I was more than ready to get up and do something. I ran for 30 minutes (not counting 3 walking breaks up hills) and made it round a regular Crouch End circuit. This is as close to a ‘normal run’ as I have managed since being up the duff and I feel absurdly proud of myself.
It’s amazing what a change of perspective will do for you. If you had told me six months ago I would be happy with running for half an hour three times a week, and walking up all the hills, you would have had to give me a pretty damn good reason.
Luckily, you would have one.
Hello runners, it’s been a while.
I last wrote in July, when leaves were green and the English summer rain was in full flow. Throughout the rest of July, August and September I didn’t run once, the longest time I’ve gone without running in 18 years.
I wasn’t injured. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to run. I was having my second and last round of ivf treatment.
And then, amazingly, I was pregnant.
I’m still pregnant, 13 weeks now. I never thought I would be able to write that and I want to be mindful of the feelings of those who don’t care about such things, or care too much for reasons I fully understand. I won’t go on about it, I promise, but I do want to be honest now that I feel I can be – I hope that’s ok.
One of the first things I asked my doctor, when I got the Big News, was “can I start running again”? Running during the stimulating stage of ivf is not advised, and I didn’t run during my “two week wait”, so I had already endured six weeks of rest. I had to get back out there. The doctor said yes, of course. No questions, no hesitation.
I contemplated the trainers in the hallway, 4 weeks pregnant and reeling. A conversation with my mother was ringing in my ears – “You won’t run will you? Please don’t”. I examined my motives. Why did I want to run? Was I just being selfish? What if there was the slightest risk that running could make me miscarry this, my only ever pregnancy and the last chance I never believed I’d get? I chickened out. This brave new world of pregnancy made me too scared.
Over the next two weeks, as the news started to sink in, I read a million and one articles on the internet. I tried in vain to find proper studies of running in early pregnancy. The only one I could find is the scary Danish one, but as it found risk to women who did over seven hours of strenuous exercise per week, i.e. marathon training, it was not too helpful to someone contemplating three gentle 20 minute runs per week.
At 8 weeks I had an early scan and left knowing that a jelly-baby blob with a heartbeat was growing inside of me. It really was. I knew that running was going to be ok. Everything was going to be ok. It was time.
The first run was weird: terrifying and fantastic. I was a jogger, running very slowly and walking every five minutes. I managed 18 minutes’ nervous plodding, panicking at every twinge. Ivf leaves you swollen inside for weeks and I think most of the discomfort I felt during that first run was related to that.
The next run was fine – completely great in fact. I ran for two sets of 10 minutes in the autumn sunshine, nothing hurt, and when I got back I felt like myself for the first time in months. Endorphins rock! I may be slow, I may only be running occasionally, but I am running. I am back!