How I Ran My First Marathon… While Pregnant

I’m writing a part of this entry one week before the TBR Dream Marathon 2020 but the title says it’s already done and over with – that’s how convinced I am that I’m gonna finish the 42KM run at this point. I have always dreamed of running a full marathon. For me, it is a test of mental and physical toughness. And a little something extra… doing it while pregnant. Yes, you read it right, I am biting the bullet.

If you’re like me who found out the good news while training for a marathon or just contemplating to run one with a baby bump, here’s a few insights that you can consider:

1. KNOW YOUR “WHY”

The crazy idea of running a full marathon started when my twin sister and I thought of registering in TBR Dream Marathon 2020 last July 2019. It’s a race created for first and second time marathoners. The slot is lottery drawn so we didn’t know the odds of us being both chosen. All we know that time was a lot of people try their luck to get in to this event.

On July 25, 2019 – the selected runners came out. We both got in! My initial reaction was not “WOW” or “YAY”. Instead, it’s a big “WHY” – why on earth did we do this. The farthest I ran was 21KM and my tongue fell out finishing that race. Not to mention that it took me one month to recover with 4 dead toenails. And now this?

We had two days to decide. It was a never ending discussion with my sister; so many times we asked if it’s a go or no-go. One day I just realized, why did we register in the first place? Why did we try to get in to this event? One clear, simple answer – because we wanted it! There was this desire that led us to take effort filling out the registration forms, researching, considering the expenses and what-not. We wanted to do something that not everybody can do. In other words, we wanted the challenge! So finally, we did not let the fear take over and decided to join.

All was going well and I had a 20-20 vision of my objective for the TBR Dream Marathon 2020. I was all set until December 9, 2019 – I found out I was pregnant. Just like my initial reaction on getting in the race, not “WOW” or “YAY”. Instead, it’s a big “WHY” – why now. Not that I didn’t want to have a second Elisse (who would not?), but why the timing, I asked. The overthinking went back. The fear again took over. I was so down – and this was the most selfish feeling that I’ve had in my life. Being down after knowing you’re pregnant? Unbelievable! I feel a horrible guilt up until today on why I felt it that time and I express my regret countless times.

It finally sank in that it’s just my own self who’s derailing everything. After days of anxiety, I finally decided to use the circumstance not to stop, but to be the reason to continue. I told myself, “I WILL RUN FOR TWO”. I will break the stigma – pregnant women can still run, more so, do a marathon. I respect and salute moms who put things off until giving birth but as for me, I decided to continue with a promise to listen to my body. I know what my body is capable of. The challenge is doing all of this while my body is going through the incredible changes… and I accepted it.

2. LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR

Not many doctors support constant running while pregnant, let alone doing a marathon. Once you know that your baby is in the right place and good condition, the key here is making your OB understand your running history. I started my conversation with my doctor with, “Doc, I have been running for years even before I get pregnant and I workout 3 to 5 times a week. I consider myself as a very physically active individual. I intend to run a marathon and I have been training for it. I would like to get your go signal as I really want to achieve my goal by doing all of this safely.”. She then agreed perhaps knowing what I wanted to hear considering my speech instead of simply asking a permission. LOL.

If you weren’t running regularly before getting pregnant, do not start now.

3. TRAIN PROPERLY

The 22-week marathon training formally started on September 2019. We joined the Agura Training Camp (ATC) led by Coach Janette Agura. It was the best decision we made in relation to the anticipated marathon. Coach Janette and the ATC runners really helped us improve and boost our runner-selves. The support of ATC from the training up to the race day was unbelievable.

4. EXPECT THE CHANGES AND ADJUST

I have been running for almost 3 years so I thought, maybe it wouldn’t make so much difference this time.

8 weeks (almost 2 months) pregnant I went on with the training. Week 9, 10, 11, 12 and so on – it’s not getting any easier. I felt extra sluggish, tired not even starting to run. Non-stop all-day sickness, acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, headache – goodness, I felt really pregnant. I didn’t know how to start running with all that’s happening to my body. The only comfort while running was the redirection of pain from my head and stomach to my legs. It felt somewhat better. Though, of course, I had my instinct to scale off and just rest during worst times. Good thing my coach was very considerate by tweaking my drills and run intensity.

I had to change my energy gels to non-caffeinated with flavors that I didn’t like and adjust my hydration because I couldn’t take the taste of water! I also noticed that my heart rate increased even in my slow runs. I was struggling with 5Ks. “Break the stigma”, huh? My conviction turned into hesitation. But then again, it brings me back to my “WHY”.

5. DON’T PUT PRESSURE ON YOURSELF

From a sub 5-hour target finish time, I instead changed my goal to simply finishing the race safe. I remember when I did the most important long run before the race , the 32KM. It was the most crucial part, the trial run, and most importantly, the tipping point. That run was the deciding point whether I push through or back out the race.

My twin sister ran alongside me all the way. I ran slowly and safely. Super slow, touching my tummy once in a while trying to tell my little one that “we’re okay, buddy”. We finished the 32KM run. A bit painful, but I finished it. That’s the goal!

6. FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL RUN WITH YOU ALL THE WAY

I was lucky to have my family and ATC running team to support me. But the person who played an important role on this journey was my twin sister, Trina. Just like me, she had her goal. But when I told her I was pregnant, she aligned her goals with mine without any hesitations.

My twin and I promised to cross the finish line together. No one would leave the other behind.

7. EMBRACE THE RACE

With the gun’s signal, we took off with a prayer.

The first half was fine. Then came the 27th kilometer. My knees weakened. How would I finish the remaining 15 kilometers, I repeatedly doubted. My sister kept uttering, “we will stick to the plan. We will finish this race!”. Every kilometer felt farther and farther. The cheers of the support crew and fellow runners kept us going. Go Kambal! Let’s go twins! Almost there twins!

We reached the final 200-meter mark. We could see the finish line already. It felt surreal! My tears started to fall. We finally heard it – Trisha and Trina, the twins! Congratulations, you are now marathoners! I only heard that in my dreams. All the hard work definitely paid off. We finished with unofficial time of 5 hours and 34 minutes.

My finish time was not the one I initially planned for – it was slower. However, I did not make my pregnancy an excuse for having such finish time. Instead, I am very proud that the baby inside me became the reason why I went through and finished the race. My baby is a marathoner at 4 months in my tummy!

My marathon journey was a roller coaster ride. I cried so many times just thinking or dreaming of crossing the finish line. Guess what, I already have a photo of now an amazing reality. I could not have done this without the support of my family and running community.

PS: If you’re looking for a race to run your first marathon, The Bull Runner Dream Marathon is the best event to join in. You will never feel alone on your journey. The organizers handled the Ash Fall and NCOV hazards very well. They think of the runners’ welfare. There were changes in the venue, time and logistics but they didn’t settle for mediocrity. They provided a great Plan B!

And if you’re pregnant, listen to your body and ask your doctor first. Remember that every pregnancy is different.

Your mommathoner, Trisha B.

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