My running journey began for me in High school. When I started on our school’s Cross Country team I could barely run a mile without stopping…or yacking. But, just like a lot of runner’s stories, it was something so challenging and yet so rewarding that I knew I had to stick with it. Fast forward to 17 years later (YIKES!) with half marathons, marathons, 50ks, and even Rim2Rim2Rim culminating my incredible running journey, not to mention some of the best relationships and memories made, and BOOM! I found myself facing a whole new journey…running through pregnancy.
My husband Sam and I talked for a while about having kids. In fact, he was ready well before I was. It may sound silly but, it felt like there was always something that pushed back our “goal time” of creating a family…”I just really want to run a 50K and then..”, “I just want to travel a little more and then…”, and finally, “I just want to run Chicago one more time and then…”. And there you have it….the last one sealed the deal and without planning we found out we were pregnant just a little over a month after Chicago. We were a mix of thrilled and scared and even more thrilled.
The weekend we found out we were pregnant we were registered to run a 50K in Alabama with a big group of our closest friends and trail training group. The morning before we left we went to the doctor. Sam and I made a deal that we would get the doctor’s advice for the weekend’s race and would not object if running was not in the cards (however, secretly I planned on asking as many “Why Nots?” as possible if needed). My doctor is incredible…a perfect mix of realistic yet understanding. She told us that it is more than safe to run during pregnancy…especially if it is something I did before and during the process of getting pregnant. She did not love the idea of me running a SUPER challenging 50K as early on as I was in the process however, suggested I drop to the 25K instead. So we happily did!
After that race weekend I knew I wanted more guidance and coaching for my journey ahead. I had debated the idea of getting a coach, pre-pregnancy, to take my running to the next level for some time. It may sound counter-intuitive but, once I got pregnant it felt like it was the time to make the commitment. I wanted a strong coach that would give me the tools I needed to push when it was the right time to push, pull back when I needed to, and overall ensure I was setting myself up for a healthy 40+ weeks and more importantly a healthy comeback.
I had heard amazing things about Coach James McKirdy. Aside from his stellar car-karaoke skills, I was impressed with the amazing team of coaches and athletes he put together to make McKirdy Trained and I knew it was something I wanted to be part of. I was nervous reaching out to Coach James at first. What would I say? “Uhh..I am 10 weeks pregnant and not sure how much longer I will be able to run but, I would like you to coach me.”..Yes, that is exactly what I said. His response was so refreshing and further sealed the deal that this was the right decision. He spoke about the importance of listening to my body and ensuring we communicated constantly to determine if we needed to adjust paces, intensity, or distances based on how I was feeling or changes aligned with pregnancy. He was aligned with my desire to be smart about training but also know I was setting a great foundation for a strong pregnancy and delivery while also ensuring I would be that much stronger when returning from having the baby.
Coach James did a great job creating plans that were right where I needed them to be. I was fortunate to be able to push myself (within reason) at the beginning. I was given a great mix of speed, distance, and most importantly strength training that would help as my pregnancy progressed. Runners are often guilty of week hips and glutes and with all the changes in my body, I knew that the strength of those key muscle groups was exactly what I needed, so much of the strength consisted of focusing on that as well as core to make sure I was building that solid foundation. In the early months, I was amazed at how great I felt and how I was able to conquer the workouts. Having workouts that challenged me but that were achievable made me feel a strong sense of normalcy to an otherwise very unique time in my life.
Aside from conquering workouts and keeping my life in balance as much as possible, my doctor’s appointments also seemed to be something I was conquering. Running allowed me to keep a healthy pregnancy weight while also ensuring I was keeping my blood pressure low and muscular and joint pain at bay. It was pretty normal for my doctor to commend my vitals and progress at each appointment and I know this is directly related to running and my dedication to an active pregnancy. It also seems an active mother has made an active baby and the movement of this little one is already off the charts. It is important to stress that if at any time I felt, or my doctor felt, I needed to cut back I would have in a second and knew that Coach James would have fully supported that decision and adapted my plan accordingly.
My training plan changed to accommodate the changes that I was experiencing. As I got further along I found it was harder to keep “threshold pace” and that the longer runs were more taxing. Since I was in constant communication with Coach James, I was able to share this with him and make the needed changes. After many workouts I would get a text asking how I was feeling and could give him feedback in real time so that we could adjust. Now that I am less than two weeks out from this little babe’s due date, I am still running…although I joke it’s more of a waddle.. and have given myself grace to do mostly walk/run intervals. I feel very fortunate that I can still run and move and James has reassured me at this point it is just about movement.
I know when I come back to running it will be another chapter in the journey that will look even different than pre-pregnancy or pregnancy but, I also have confidence that I have done all the right things to ensure I am healthy and after time off to recover will be back out there ready to face the new challenges. I told Coach James that it really takes a village and the support and encouragement I have received from my family, husband, friends, and Coach James has made this process do-able! I have, by far, the best village.