Last month I ran a half marathon. I was 17 weeks pregnant*, feeling decently good, and in pretty good shape. But I really didn’t want to push it. My training runs, especially my long ones, had been slow. And after so many months of emotional upheaval over pregnancy/non-pregnancy, I was willing to cut myself a break. Then again, one of the (many) things that continued to be source of sadness for me was that I really like to be in good shape when I get pregnant—like, just ran a PR-marathon kind of shape.
That wasn’t in the cards this time. I mean, I did get pregnant soon after I ran my last Boston Marathon, but then I lost the pregnancy. And in the months of sadness that followed, although I ran, it was half-heartedly. I felt like in addition to losing the pregnancy, I was losing my body (and my heart, and my mind, and my soul . . . ). So getting back into shape for this pregnancy was a minor goal of mine. Maybe I didn’t run a marathon the month or two before I got pregnant, but a half marathon a month or two after was just as good.
Still, I had modest goals for the race. Sub-2:00 is what I told myself. (My PR is 1:36.) I would run, but I wasn’t really going to race. And then, the day before the race, Micah said he was going to run with me. Which is fine. Actually, the other half-marathons we’ve run, we’ve run together, crossing the line hand-in-hand, more or less. But the thing is, Micah hasn’t been able to train well for a few years. And yet despite that, he’s still always the one pushing the pace. It’s . . . inspiring. And infuriating.
So on race-day we lined up together. He promised to let me set the pace. The gun went off, and so did we. It took a few miles to find our place amidst the hordes of runners, but by mile 4 the crowds had mostly thinned out and we weren’t bobbing and weaving quite so much. I was hoping to settle into something comfortable. Somehow, that didn’t happen. The pace kept feeling a little fast. Micah kept finding someone else that we really couldn’t let be in front of us. And every mile, I would listen as my phone told us our average pace. It kept dropping.
Every now and then, I’d alert him to this fact. He seemed unconcerned. I reminded him that he said I could set the pace. He said he didn’t realize I wasn’t. We kept running. By mile 9 I was pretty sure I couldn’t hold onto that pace for the rest of the race, but then, we were running next to a Macho Man impersonator and it was pretty much the best thing ever. (“Hand me a Slim Jim!” he’d grumble as we sped by the aid stations.) We couldn’t let him go. So we kept running.
I was pushing it. Going faster than I’d planned and giving it more than I intended to. Yes, I wanted to be in shape for the baby, but then again, the baby was also my excuse for taking it a little bit easy.
As we approached the 13 mile marker, I felt the baby kick. Micah said it was a sign we should kick it in. We finished in 1:43. Way off “goal pace.” Way faster than I had intended. But really, it felt good to push it, to not make excuses, to really see what I could do.
Before we left the finish coral, we thanked Macho Man for pulling us along in the last mile. Then we met up with some friends for a minute and walked home. Micah talked about how easy it had seemed, how quickly the miles had flown past and I tried not to kick him in the shin. I had actually trained and it wasn’t quick and easy for me! But then, I also wanted to hug him, too, for always always ALWAYS getting me to try my best, push a little harder, keep going a little farther.
*I know some people are concerned about running during pregnancy. So here’s the DL: it’s good for mom, it’s good for baby. It strengthens the baby’s heart. And for those who worry about any bouncing the baby may be doing in utero: there is no evidence that there is any harm done to fetus through “bouncing.” Think of it similar to your brain: your brain is also suspended in fluid, and is completely fine as you run and jump and “bounce” it around. In fact, the baby may be safer than your brain, because there aren’t even any bones to hit up against. And even if you were to lose your balance and fall while running (or walking, or whatever), the concern is not for the baby so much as it is for the placenta. If you fall and bump your belly, the baby will almost certainly be fine, but it could cause a placenta abruption, which can be very dangerous.