I am delighted to say I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k on Saturday in 18:49 and was second female! I’ve never participated in a race so soon postpartum, but Pittsburgh Marathon weekend is one of my favorite weekends and I couldn’t let it pass without participating in something as long as I was feeling healthy and running. The goal was to run fast, but not all out. Afterall, my baby turned 5 weeks old the day before the race. I told my coach it would be like a true time trial to show where I’m starting and if anything felt bad or weird at any point I would just jog/walk it in. It wasn’t meant to be a true race effort, just my first harder effort post baby and I was pretty excited.
*I should also note that I was lucky to have the least complicated labor this time around. It was vaginal, fairly quick (less than 3 hours of pain), and no ripping/tearing during delivery and very little swelling after. This helped my body feel normal much quicker. Coming back to running and especially harder efforts would not have been possible with another scenario so I got lucky.*
I didn’t run anything fast at all since having the baby until the race. My runs have all been easy pace ranging from 7:50/mile to 9:00/mile. I have been trying to just get in some miles and return cautiously. My coach told me I couldn’t even do strides on my training runs. I thought doing some strides might remind my legs they have speed before the race but he told me to just take it easy and I listened!
In the week leading up to the race, I chatted with 2 friends about time goals. I told them each I had this crazy thought that I would run sub 20 minutes, but that was only if everything was perfect. In reality, I thought I would run 21-22 minutes and that would be great! And I had these thoughts in my head, but I didn’t set a limit to what I could do. To be honest, in a dream world that I didn’t really believe, yet didn’t rule out either, I thought it would be cool to run 18:45, or 6:00/mile pace. This sort of came to me as I was running with my friend Kate and she was telling me she believed in me and reminded me to reflect on postpartum races and workouts of the past.
Race morning was just as hectic as every morning. I got up at 6am (8am race start time), quickly got partially dressed (everything but my sports bra/tank since I needed to feed the baby and pump). I ate breakfast, got my older son and daughter ready, fed the baby, pumped the rest of the milk out, finished getting ready and we left the house at 7am, 15 minutes behind schedule. We got downtown around 7:20 and waited in line for our bibs since I didn’t have time to get them at the expo the day before. Because the race day bib pickup lines were long, I didn’t start my warmup until 7:35. I probably jogged about 1/2 mile, did my first strides in FOREVER and felt super awkward on those.
Thankfully my in-laws came to town for the race so my husband and I could both do the 5k. I thought maybe I should feed the baby one more time before the race since I could already feel my chest getting heavier, but there was no time. I pulled on a second sports bra and knew baby and I would both be fine. We took off for the start line and left the in-laws to find a cheer spot with all 3 kids – sons in the double stroller and daughter on foot.
There isn’t too much to report on the actual race. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to check my Garmin and know my splits during the race or not, but that was decided for me as there were clocks at the different mile markers. When I saw the 1 mile mark clock in the distance and it said 5:40 I was a little shocked. The first mile felt so comfortable, maybe like a tempo run, not a race, and by the time I hit one mile it read about 6:10. Mile 2 was less comfortable, but still felt pretty good! That mile was a bit faster, about 6:05 and I was just so pumped about how I was keeping this pace feeling so strong. The last mile was my fastest, sub 6:00 pace and I stayed strong through the finish line. I was so surprised that I pressed the “lap” button at first instead of “stop” but guessed my time was probably just over 18:50. (I later saw official results and found I was just UNDER 18:50, at 18:49 woohoo!)
I talked to a few friends as my husband and I went through the finish shoot then we reunited with our family. My daughter took a picture of us then my husband went for his cooldown while I quickly nursed the baby as my daughter was set to start the Kids Marathon in less than 30 minutes and we had to walk to the start line over 1/2 mile away. Of course she wanted to run most of the way there!
My daughter had an awesome time running the Kids Marathon. I ran with her as my cooldown. We spent a few hours hanging out in the finish line area. They have tons of kids activities during the day and the kids always have so much fun! A few hours later, my older son did the Toddler Trot. Of course my baby was screaming his head off because he was hungry right then so I was walking to the race area while trying to nurse the baby. #multitasking at it’s finest.
I was surprised to feel really good the next morning (Sunday) but I wanted to take it really easy to be smart. For my run, I went to the 15 mile mark of the Pittsburgh Marathon course, just 1/2 mile from my house, and ran back and forth over a 3 city block area, cheering for everyone who passed! It was the best way to spend the morning until I had to be home to feed the baby again. I love running the Pittsburgh Marathon (half) partly because the fans and cheer sections are so awesome! Since I’m always running the event, I’ve never been able to cheer even though it passes so close to my house. It was so nice to be on the other side this year and be part of the amazing Pittsburgh cheer sections!
A lot of people (myself included) asked me after the race “how did you do it?!” I’ve done some thinking about it and here are my answers.
- I was in killer marathon shape when I unexpectedly got pregnant. I was in the best shape of my life and was gearing up to run a whole marathon at the pace I ran the 5k this weekend. Since I ran through my whole pregnancy (though I only ran easy runs and did 20-30 miles a week with that being on the lower end as I got closer to my due date) I was able to maintain some fitness.
- I went into the race physically well rested. Although I’m getting up in the middle of the night and not sleeping as much as I’d like, I’m taking my physical activity really easy. I had 3 weeks completely off running, And have come back slowly with short, easy runs the next 2 weeks, and a day off 2 days before the race just to let my body completely rest.
- Big cheer section. I can’t thank all my friends enough for showing up on the course and cheering! I heard my name so many times and it made the run feel pretty effortless (as far as racing goes anyway!)
- Belief in what I can do. This should probably be #1 on the list. While I was shocked at how fast my time was, I knew deep down it was possible. I didn’t expect too much from myself, but also didn’t put a limit on what I could do. I spent the first 16 years of my running life putting limits on myself and only started seeing my potential when I learned to start letting that go (I’m still working on this aspect of my racing and life, but I’m leaps and bounds from where I was just a few years ago.
I talked to my coach this morning and got the go ahead to do 30 miles this week if everything feels good. I ended last week with just under 22 miles with one day completely off.
Thank you everyone for the encouragement and cheers and for following along! I really appreciate it!