I’m happy to be teaming up with Novant Health for this post, to support women being active in forms of movement they love and enjoy.
I’m excited to share my first post-partum race experience with you all today! As you may know, I ran the Novant Health Charlotte Half Marathon on Saturday morning. It was my first long-distance race in a year and a half, and my first race in over a year. I had lots of feels going in, including both excitement and nerves. But, man did it feel good to get back in the racing scene.
I’ve been feeling more like my old self since returning to running. Motherhood has this way of changing you. I definitely think it changes you for the better, but there’s no denying that it’s a huge adjustment leaving your former life. I can no longer just go out and run whenever I please. My life is a little less flexible right now and my window of opportunity for exercise depends on when Cam isn’t eating or sleeping. This makes it a little bit challenging to stick to any sort of rigorous training schedule, but I found what worked for me.
The Race Course
I woke up early enough to enjoy my typical pre-race breakfast (oatmeal and fruit), 16 oz of water with NUUN (electrolytes), and coffee (Recycled picture because it was so dark)! I’ve always been a fan of coffee before races.
I pumped before leaving the house so I wouldn’t feel too uncomfortable while running. Fortunately, my parents were in town for the weekend to help babysit Camryn, and she was still asleep when I snuck out.
I will say it felt so weird to be getting up early to race. It’s been so long since I’ve done this. My last marathon was in May of 2017. I got down to the starting line around 7:00am and ate a Gu Stroop Waffle.
I like to have some time to warm up, stretch, and use the bathrooms again. This time, I didn’t carry a water bottle (I usually do, mixed with Tailwind) and opted to stop at the water stops along the race. The race day conditions were great for running. It was an early 7:30 start time, around 42 degrees. I warmed up in a long sleeved shirt, and ultimately, decided to run in just shorts. I ditched my long sleeve shirt around mile 6 and finished in my tank.
When the gun went off, my legs automatically started running. In my head, I knew I didn’t want to start out too fast because I hadn’t trained much. I wanted to pace myself and make sure I had “enough” left to last throughout the race. Well, my first three miles were sub 8 minute pace, which was not exactly the plan. I had wanted to start more conservatively, around 9:30 pace. But, I felt okay and couldn’t slow down even though I tried. After mile 3, I settled into my 8:10-8:30 pace which was a little more comfortable.
I didn’t realize how HILLY the course was – that helped me pace myself too. The course was pretty, though, especially with the fall foliage all around. There were spectators speckled throughout the course. There weren’t areas where there were tons of fans at one place, but rather, they were just sprinkled throughout. It made it nicer to have some cheering every mile. We ran through some of my old neighborhoods when I lived closer to downtown Charlotte, fun to reminesce!
I took my first gel around mile 5, and then started snacking on some chews around mile 9-12. I took a few swigs of water at each water stop (the first was at mile 4, I believe). Overall, I felt energized and pretty good! My legs started to tire around mile 9, but I just kept telling myself that I was almost near the end. I feel like I kind of zoned out throughout this race. I don’t really remember details about each mile or mile markers. But, I finished and that’s what I was counting on!
How I Trained Post-Partum
I’ve already gotten some questions about returning to running post partum, so I thought it would be great to talk about my training. So, training has been a little different these days, clearly. I had a gradual return to running, starting about 10-12 weeks post partum.
While I was cleared for exercise at my 6 week post partum visit, mentally I wasn’t ready to delve back in yet. I talked to my care team of doctors and they mentioned just starting with light walking and waiting a few more weeks until adding in running, so that’s what I did! I’ve been listening to my body, and just had to get more creative for fitting it in.
Training for this past half marathon was different than any other race I’ve trained for. Mainly because I was only running about 3 days a week. I also wasn’t doing the amount of yoga/cross training that I normally do during long distance training. Secondly, I didn’t do any speed work or interval workouts. That seemed a little intense for my body, and I still don’t see myself adding those in for a few more months.
However, I’m injury-free and the race went rather well considering, so I’m quite happy with the outcome! If you do have any injuries or sports medicine questions, I highly recommend finding a sports rehab specialist who specializes in athletic conditions and injuries. If you’re local to Charlotte, I recommend the sports rehab team at Novant Health.
Here is what I really focused on during my training:
1. Take the pressure off.
If I wanted to run but there was no way it would happen that day, no big deal. In the past, I would have been a little more regimented about following a training plan, but I knew that wouldn’t work for me now. I had to be flexible. Running every MWF or something like that wouldn’t always work. But, if I could get 2-3 days in each week (even if different days), that sufficed.
2. Do what you can when you can.
On the same note, if I was supposed to run 5 miles and could only do 2? Great! Better than nothing. Maybe I could fit in a longer walk or short jog later, or maybe I could add one on to my next run. And if not, I didn’t stress. I planned my running days for the days I had childcare. If those days didn’t work, I took Camryn in the running stroller.
3. Be prepared for when you can go.
I basically lived in my running wear (when I wasn’t seeing clients). When I saw a good opportunity to go, I took it and I didn’t have to spend time changing clothes. I learned to be able to act quickly when I saw an opening! I realized it was too difficult to plan to run at exactly 7am, or 2pm, for example. My life just doesn’t work that way right now, and that’s okay.
4. Be realistic.
By this, I mean be realistic for how much you can train, how long you can train for, how soon you can race, etc. While I would love to be running 40-50 miles a week right now, that’s just completely unrealistic for me. On the other hand, 15 miles a week is somewhat realistic, with 3ish days of running. That’s where I’m at, and knowing that these are my expectations, I’m not devastated when I can’t run 4+ days a week. Or, when I can’t bust out hour runs on back-to-back days.
Also, my longest runs were 8 and 9 miles. I could have kept running on those days, but it was more of a time constraint. But, those runs felt good and I trusted my body would remember longer distances.
I really feel like this mindset helped me keep things real and stay motivated throughout my running and training. I know this plan won’t work for everyone, so I encourage you to take what you can from it and revise whatever you need to!
You tell me,
When did you run your first race post partum?
How was running different for you after pregnancy and birth? Or during different stages of life?