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How I Ran Kalamazoo and Why I'm Giving Up Chicago

When I first found out that I was pregnant, I panicked. Panicked because I knew life was about to change big time, and panicked because I was supposed to be running the Kalamazoo Marathon in a mere 5 days.

Kevin and I had a few lengthy discussions about whether I should run the race or not.

Our first instincts were No. Way. How could it be safe? What if I got dehydrated? What if the running caused the baby to rock and roll all over the place? Eek.

My primary care doctor, who I saw two days after the initial positive test, backed up those first instincts.

"No. You shouldn't be running a marathon. That's too much. In fact, you shouldn't run at all in the first trimester. Too much movement," she said.

And then my second instincts kicked in. I was crushed. As much as I wanted to be a momma, I also wanted to run the 26.2 miles that I had trained 12 weeks for.

There's something about a race that makes a woman go crazy.

So Kevin and I had more conversations. I put in a call to what would be my new ob-gyn, hoping that they'd give me a better (read: what I wanted) second opinion.

"Sorry," the nurse said. "But we don't really know you yet. We can't tell you to run or not run."

And then I went on a Google-search bender, looking for any positive stories of women who'd run a race pregnant. (Because you know Google is always the best doctor.)

Running a marathon while pregnant.

Marathon pregnant run.

Safety running pregnancy.

Success while running pregnant.

I searched and read, read and searched for hours. Time was ticking down as I agonized over the need to run and the need to keep this tiny little thing safe.

Opinions were mixed. While several people and websites advised against extended extraneous exercise (a.k.a, a marathon), others not only supported the idea, they had done it themselves.

Woman after woman had not only continued to run while pregnant - they'd done half-marathons and marathons.

So I made a final call: I would run the race.

Like I said, there's just something about racing.

Yet in light of all the recent developments, I decided to do a few things differently:

  • Head out slower and maintain a less rigorous pace than I'd originally planned. The pre-pregnancy plan was to run a sub-4:15 race. New plan: Just finish and see what happens. Keep per-mile pace around 10:00 or higher.
  • Stop at every aid station to walk and drink water. While running Detroit in 2009 and other longer races, I usually stopped at aid stations every 5 miles or so. Pregnancy racing: took a 30-45 second walk break at each station (total of 15 stations on the Kzoo route.)
  • Switch from caffeinated energy gels to non-caffeinated. Since pregnant women are supposed to have less than 200 mg of caffeine daily, I decided against my usual go-to gels.
  • Pay very close attention to my body. Not that I didn't do this before, but it was more important now than ever to watch for any signs of distress.
  • Stop immediately if any new or never-before-seen signs show up. If I had to DNF (did not finish) the race, then I'd go as far as I could and DNF.
I ended up finishing the race and setting a new PR. It wasn't the PR I'd hoped for, but it didn't matter. I'd finished feeling strong and good.

And I will share these last few tidbits to anyone thinking of running a marathon while pregnant:

  • Yes, I did go against Doctor's orders. I did so at my own risk.
  • I'd been running for several years and training specifically for this marathon for 12 weeks. I'm no pro, but this certainly wasn't new to my body.
  • Kalamazoo wasn't my very first long distance race. Prior to this, I'd run two half-marathons and another full marathon. I felt that I had a good grip on what normal marathon pain was supposed to feel like. If anything felt out of the ordinary, I planned to stop.
And just in case something did happen while I was out on the course, I made a note on the back of my bib that looked something like this:

Medical Problems: Pregnant.

(Yeah, I crossed out the word problems on the bib because I felt bad looking at pregnancy like a "problem", and there was nowhere else to write such a thing.)

Giving Up Chicago

So this week would be the week that I start to train for Chicago.

Instead, and despite deciding to run Kalamazoo, I've decided to opt out of that race as the bun will be over half-baked at that time (a.k.a, I'll be near 25 weeks or so).

While I'm sure I could attempt to run it, most signs are pointing to no. And thinking of running 26.2 miles with what will probably be an extra 26.2 pounds on me doesn't sound very enticing.

I'm sad, because Chicago is one of the five Majors, and I've always wanted to run the course.

I'm also very happy, because in January I'll have a whole new race to run.

Have you ever decided to run a race despite a medical condition? Or, have you ever had to drop out due to a problem? How did you make your decision?

Also... Know anyone looking to run Chicago? I've got an entry into this sold-out race that I'd love to do something with!

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