How to Run a Marathon while 20 Weeks Pregnant

Spoiler alert…this post is NOT about running 26.2 miles all at once when you are pregnant!  I’m a believer in the everything in moderation thinking during pregnancy, so I will likely never run a marathon when I am expecting.

This past weekend, I ran the 26.2 miles over the course of 3 days.  Yes, I know I didn’t actually run a marathon by technical terms, but this is the closest I will likely get to running a marathon for the next 6-7 months!

One of the things I miss most about running when I am pregnant is the challenge…During pregnancy #1, I didn’t have any measurable goals for myself.  Yes, I wanted to stay healthy and active and run as far into pregnancy as I could, but there were no day-to-day or week-to-week goals.  I would run however far I felt up to running.  While this is definitely a great way to go about running during pregnancy, I found it boring and for months, felt like something was missing.  I missed the excitement of having a goal, having something to strive for, and then the euphoric feeling afterwards of achieving that goal.

Now that I’m pregnant with baby #2, I promised myself I would have a few specific goals and challenges along the way to aim for.  This weekend’s challenge was to run a marathon (I didn’t actually plan for this challenge until I was in the middle of Friday’s run).

My target race this spring was supposed to be the NJ Marathon (held this past weekend).  Although my goal for the NJ Marathon was sub-3:10, I was training (and hitting the times) for a 3:05 marathon.  When I was seven weeks into training, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2 and immediately knew that the NJ Marathon would be a race I deferred until 2013.

Although I could NOT be happier that our family of three will soon add a fourth member, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have periods of moping around, feeling sad and depressed, and wishing I was running the marathon at multiple points last week.

I had a wonderful 10 mile run on Friday morning – I ran to the Staten Island boardwalk, logged a few miles along the water, then ran into Fort Wadsworth, under the Verrazano Bridge, and finished the loop with some hill repeats (Fort Wadsworth has some killer hills!) before making my way home.

On the run back to our apartment, I realized I was finishing up 10 miles.  My mind started scheming and planning.  If I ran 16 miles on Saturday, I would only need .2 additional miles to run 26.2 miles in two days (Note: I had run 14 miles the previous Saturday so was already throwing around the idea of 16 this past weekend).  What better way to celebrate what should have been my marathon weekend!!

I woke up Saturday morning happy and excited.  It felt like a big training day, even kind of like a race day!  The early hours were spent fueling and hydrating properly.  The first couple of miles on Saturday were tough – my legs felt tired and I was having a hard time maintaining a 9 min/mile pace.  I hadn’t run back-to-back double digit days since January.   I let my body decide the pace while giving it more time to warm up.  When mile 3 buzzed, I was surprised to see I had run an 8:26 mile.  For the next few miles, I settled into a comfortable pace hovering around 8:25.  I felt great.  I felt like a runner again.  There were even periods of the run I forgot I was 20 weeks pregnant.

Although my legs were getting tired, my heart rate and breathing stayed under control.  I slowed down a bit but was still hoping to complete the 16.2 miles – until I reached mile 11.  My belly started not feeling right – it wasn’t painful, but there was more pressure than I am comfortable running with.  I stopped, stretched and walked a few minutes before trying to run again – but the pressure was still there.  As much as I wanted to run the marathon distance in two days, I decided to play it safe and give the remaining distance (~5.2 miles) a try on Sunday.  Pregnancy is NOT the time to be a hero.  Since I was about 3 miles from home, I called my husband to come pick me up. (Note – this is  why I ALWAYS run with a cell phone when I’m pregnant!)

I headed out for the remaining 5.2 miles early Sunday morning.  Although my legs felt okay earlier in the day, they felt like dead weight once I started running.

But you know what?  Running on sore, tired legs is one of my favorite things in the world.  I LOVE going on a short four or five miler the day after a long, hard run…feeling your sore muscles with every stride…knowing that it’s because you put in the time and mileage to make them tired.  Maybe I’m a glutton for pain, but these runs have always been enjoyable for me.  And they make me a stronger runner, especially during the final miles in a marathon.  I haven’t had a run like this since January.

I was tired, my pace was slow, but I was challenging myself and knew I would achieve my goal (Note: although my legs were tired, my breathing was relaxed and my heart rate was under control the whole run).  I live for this type of challenge….this is what I love about running

Just because you are pregnant does not mean you have to stop making running goals for yourself.  Maybe it means you aim to run a certain distance one day, or log a specific number of miles each week, or just run a fun distance over a period of a few days.  As long as you listen to your body (first and foremost) and know when to stop, having a goal puts the joy and excitement back into running (or doing anything active).  You can still have fun and enjoy running when you are pregnant.

Stats from the weekend

Friday’s 10 mile run
Total Time: 1:26:00 (roughly)
Pace: 8:35

Saturday’s 11 mile run
Mile 1: 9:09
Mile 2: 8:51
Mile 3: 8:26
Mile 4: 8:24
Mile 5: 8:27
Mile 6: 8:29
Mile 7: 8:37
Mile 8: 8:40
Mile 9: 8:37
Mile 10: 8:38
Mile 11: 8:35
Total Time: 1:34:52
Pace: 8: 37

Sunday’s 5.2 mile run
Total Time: 47:00 (roughly)
Pace: 9:02

Average/Total
Total Time: :3:47:52
Pace: 8:41

Congrats to EVERYONE who raced this weekend!!  Share with us – did you race??  How did you do?

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    28 thoughts on “How to Run a Marathon while 20 Weeks Pregnant

    1. I love this article and am SO happy I found your blog. I am 23 weeks pregnant with our first. I ran my first marathon in November and was 8 weeks pregnant. I’ve completed a handful of half marathons prior to that race. I am running a half marathon in April and will be 7 months pregnant at that point. My “training plan” right now is a very easy/beginners half marathon type plan. My goal is to just run as long into this pregnancy as possible with no time/distance/speed goals. I just want to maintain as much of my running base as possible. I also teach Zumba 4 days a week. I love being able (so far anyway) to maintain my fitness. Things are different for sure though. I’m slower and much more cautious, but it’s SO rewarding being able do these things while creating a human!

      • Thank you so much for your sweet words! And congratulations on your pregnancy!! Glad to hear that you feel great and are still able to run!
        Best of luck with your half! Hope you have a safe and enjoyable next few months of training, running and pregnancy!! =) And if you ever have any questions, please let me know!
        nycrunningmama recently posted..The Treadmill Incline DebateMy Profile

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    3. I ran a half marathon on Sunday 10 weeks pregnant…felt good just not as strong as I would have liked!
      2:12:11….my worst time yet, but my first time racing for 2 :) I can’t wait for more energy in the upcoming weeks! Nice 26.2 Michelle, very impressive!

    4. I love the way you laid out this goal. I have felt the same way about setting goals during pregnancy, which is why I picked my favorite race the Big Lake Half Marathon in Alton, NH (gorgeous course!) to do this coming Saturday. My sister is running with me and we’re just going to relax and enjoy the run along the lake. Being pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t set fitness goals, they just take on a different shape! (haha, no pun intended;-)

    5. Way to go! Congrats on your weekend’s accomplishment. I, too, run for the challenge, and so it’s inspiring that you made new, creative goals to aspire to, even in such a short time. Glad you were able to run your own marathon this weekend, even while pregnant!
      Meredith @ DareYouTo recently posted..Get Motivated by MusicMy Profile

    6. I love this! What a great way to go through pregnancy. You are showing people how to be healthy and safe and enjoy running while pregnant!

      I too made a few small goals while pregnant—running a 10-mile race (running, not racing), trying to stay out for certain amounts of time if all went well. And I too took walking breaks or stopped if I felt any discomfort. Way to get it done!
      misszippy1 recently posted..I’ve dug a bit of a holeMy Profile

    7. Awesome challenge, Michelle!! That’s such a great way to recognize what would have been your marathon weekend. I can identify with those feelings– I missed having races and challenges when I was pregnant, too. You’re doing more pregnant than most women ever do when not pregnant (and speedy, too!), way to go!
      Laura recently posted..Last minute 5k- Sprint 4 Life race reportMy Profile

    8. Loved every second of this post. CONGRATS on the amazing mileage and pace times woman, you are incredible and so strong. There really is something so awesome about running on tired legs the day after a hard workout. I am finding the same thing right now with my running and not having any goals and just doing what I feel like each day, it is hard to find my same motivation and drive ya know? Thank you for the part about pregnancy not being the time to be a hero….needed to hear that. Thanks!

      • I didn’t have a chance to comment this weekend, but holy crap, lady! I can’t believe how fast you ran the half!! Seriously amazing. I think I’m definitely less cautious this time around than I was with my son…I was content to “just run” every day but I can’t say I had anything to really look forward to. =) xoxo

      • AHH!! I know!! I’m gonna email you tonight, re: transpo into city (think I’m gonna do public transportation now)…CAN’T WAIT!

    9. Great job as always Michelle! You will be back stronger and faster than ever in no time. NJ won’t know what hit it next year. :)
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    10. I just want to tell you that you are awesome. My husband always told me not to “be a hero” when I was pregnant too. :) Love that you’re taking everything in moderation. You seriously inspire me every day. You are awesome for running a marathon! And heck, your 26.3 miles were uch more important that an actual race. Michele- I just adore you! :)
      STUFT Mama recently posted..Safari Park Half Marathon 2012 RecapMy Profile

      • Oh gosh, my husband is the same way – he’s my biggest supporter but he’s also the one to pull me back down to earth when my thoughts/plans/ideas start to get a little out of control. He has prevented me from doing something stupid many, many times =) And Kristin – the feeling is more than mutual! xoxo

    11. I love how your mind works — such a clever way to get your 26.2 miles in this weekend but in a safe, balanced way. I DIG that about you, so much!! I also dig what you have to say about running on tired legs — I need to take that mindset next time I set out on sore, beat down legs. I should admire them for carrying me along, and for all the work they’ve endured along the way. Great mindset shift!!
      Jess recently posted..13.1 goal: crushed.My Profile

      • Jess – honestly, it helps me get through a tough run…on runs like that, I definitely don’t wear a garmin b/c pace means nothing to me…just getting the miles in is what is key…I take pride in the fact that I whooped my own butt the day before =) LOL. Once I started doing recovery runs the day after my long runs, I began seeing and feeling a difference in my strength and stamina. Your legs will always be tired at the end of a race – running on sore legs teaches them to get used to it (plus you will know how to deal with it when the time comes!)