Can you run a half marathon while pregnant? Better yet should you?
The first is a question many expecting mamas might be wondering—better yet Googling. The answer to both is yes and yes. I ran not one, but two half marathons pregnant. Not only did I make it through to the finish, but I had fun doing so, my performance didn’t suffer and my baby is growing nice and healthy.
First of all, women should first consult with their doctor before taking on the distance. Exercise is absolutely encouraged and is healthy for healthy expecting moms. With that said, I am not a doctor and there are sometimes circumstances where this is not the case such as if a sick mama-to-be is dehydrated from being sick or on bedrest for the safety of their baby. Please talk to your doctor before running the half.
It also isn’t the best idea to sign up for your first half without any training or using it as a way to pick up running for the first time. But for those who were already running, regularly working out, and maybe even started their training for the race, running a half marathon while pregnant isn’t such a crazy idea.
What It’s Like To Train While Pregnant
Yes, I ran two half marathons while pregnant. But I didn’t know I was growing a tiny human for the first one. This meant I was super early along while training and actually got the bulk of my training in before even getting pregnant. Training consisted of two short runs during the week, a full body workout class one day, spin class another day and a long run on Saturday mornings.
Training for the second was a little different. The races were only about a month apart so it was more about maintaining endurance. Usually, I run up to 12 miles before a half, but with extreme morning sickness, I didn’t even know how I would run 10 miles. But I did. It was slow and a struggle since at this point I was about 8 weeks and started to notice changes. It was harder to breathe and took a lot longer to find my steady stride. It takes work to run long distance, but this was the first time in a long time I really hard to work to get through the distance.
I decided this would be my longest run and tapered from here on two weeks before race day. I have to note that I’ve previously only run up to 10 miles in the training plans I used for my first 3 or 4 half marathons. If you can run 10, you have the endurance for 3 more.
In general, my advice would be to make adjustments to training programs during pregnancy. Early on, those who are fit or already completed a chunk of their training should be fine to continue doing what they do. But the further along the runner gets, do what you feel your body can handle. It’s okay to skip a run if not feeling up to it. It’s okay to run/walk to get through that 10 miler. It’s okay to lessen the weight load in the gym.
What It’s Like To Run A Half Marathon While Pregnant
You thought crossing a half marathon finish line is emotional? Imagine doing so pregnant.
The first half I ran expecting I was not expecting that I was pregnant. It was the Disney Princess Half Marathon, the first half I did without worrying about time. It was all about having fun. I ran it with my best friend and we pushed the pace in the beginning, but then slowed down and just enjoyed the run together. We stopped to take character pictures and was happy the hot Florida sun didn’t come out until the end.
I actually felt so good during this run. I was the fastest and most consistent in my running and these 13.1 miles felt easy to me because I wasn’t focused on racing. I have the endurance to them walk around Disney parks for the rest of the day.
The second half marathon is a different story.
I wasn’t even sure if I would even run the race. I was cleared by my doctor to do so but was told don’t race it just run it and listen to your body. But my morning sickness and lack of energy left me doubting if it was even a good idea to attempt it. I decided I would make the decision the night before the race. And since I was having good and bad days, I really didn’t want to skip it. I was going to see this race through. I honestly wasn’t running much the two weeks before but kept up with some cross training.
Race morning I felt sick and standing at the starting line I thought about how I would make it through. But once I started running, all nausea slipped away. I will say running a half marathon is hard. Running a half marathon, in general, is hard. But the first three miles felt that I was giving it almost all I had just to stick with the pacers at what is usually a comfortable and not too fast pace. Breathing was harder and my legs felt heavier.
I strategized to stick with the pacers for the first 6 miles to be on a decent time path, then do what I could the second half. My plan was slightly flawed and the pacers drifted away after mile 3. But since this was a few seconds faster than my relaxed goal, I didn’t care. I struggled a little miles 3 to 6 but mostly found my rhythm and stride.
By mile 6 I was feeling sluggish again but took it mile by mile. These miles then seem to really pass by. I still had to put in the work, but even as a race that required more mental grit than usual for me, I didn’t doubt myself that I would finish. Don’t get me wrong, by the later miles I was ready to get to the finish, but the wave of emotions for me always crash through any fatigue that last mile and I soak in the glorious feeling of accomplishing something so great.
I must note that I ran these half marathons super early in my pregnancy. This means no belly, no weight gain, and other ailments like back pain, etc ( besides lack of energy and all day morning sickness). There are women who run with their bellies and all, super pregnant and glowing. There was one woman at the Disney Princess Half running with her husband that was 8 months pregnant. These women are superheroes. It goes to show you that our bodies are capable of amazing things.
Running Pregnant With Baby #1 vs. Pregnant With Baby #2
When I was pregnant with my son, I continued running throughout my second and third trimesters up until almost the end. The first trimester was a bit rough, but I dialed back my workouts and waited until I had the energy to do so and resumed. This would typically be 3 to 4 miles and a slow run, more like a jog just to continue to keep fit and healthy.
Regardless of how fast and how many miles I was doing, what was important was that I continued to put my health first. I stayed active and ate very healthy.
This time around I am way more advanced in my running. Faster with more endurance, since my return to running post-first baby I became hooked on racing. I ran half marathons before my first baby and after, but not while pregnant. This time I already did two, plus a marathon relay, plus 2 5ks and have 2 more lined up this summer. I am racing still, but as of late have really taken time off from running.
As a volunteer coach for a running program, I continue to stay active and run twice a week, but not any significant mileage. I was trying to keep up with my full body workout classes but found to be completely exhausted after.
It’s funny how I have really progressed in my running and fitness and now being pregnant with baby #2 I have little motivation or desire to focus on fitness the way I did the first time around.
However, I know I only just entered my second trimester so waiting for that surge of energy to come back and return to being a little more active. This time around I learned to be patient, understanding and accepting in the changes in my body and running. It’s okay to be slower and has no desire to run more than a mile.