This is the second part of a series of articles focusing on issues related to female runners who are mothers, or pregnant but still keep moving along the trails...
Special thanks to Jenna, who will be translating all Eszter's articles into Chinese.
As a runner, the first thing I looked up online after knowing I was pregnant, were stories of women who continued running during their pregnancy or did even more. I was not only googling runners who continued running, but also those who did races. Unfortunately, there is not too much relevant content online. Yet, I still found hugely encouraging stories which gave me the extra courage to continue running on a daily basis and join virtual races, even when I am 6-months pregnant.
The fact that this is my second time to experience running in pregnancy helps. I am driven by my curiosity to search for my own limits in this compromising but also beautiful situation, rather than listening to the often intimidating mainstream opinion. An important note is that so far I have not had any complication during my pregnancy. Also, whenever I want to run for a longer distance,
I always ask for consent from my trainer and obstetrician.
Erin Drasler who completed the Leadville Trail Series while she was 18-weeks pregnant said, “I feel like when I found out that I was pregnant, I searched on the internet to try to find stories of other women that have done similar things and had good experiences with it. There’s really very minimal out there and I mean, it’s not for everyone. I think one thing that I found is that obviously, you’re heavier and you’re not as fast.”
Indeed, I was not looking for stories of women who did races for the sake of winning but those who did it because they felt good. Sometimes, what matters to them is not even completion but the feeling of participation. Of course, completion will naturally follow when one feels good to keep on running. A competition is more enjoyable when you are in a state of pure enjoyment. It is certainly not about hitting a PB, or obtaining medals but more about belonging to a community.
Besides the running community, your immediate family and those close to you also play an important factor. It is a question of whether your closest ones support you or not.
For example, before I go for a long run or do a virtual race, my husband always calls his doctor friend and asks him for his opinion on whether or not I should still be running. Although he never tells me, I usually find out about it later. His interest in how I feel before heading out for a long run also makes me feel supported. All of this reflects that he is a worrying husband, but I am also grateful that he always respects me and my final call on whether to run or not. After all, it is my body. And as runners, we tend to know our bodies better as we learned to listen to the positive and negative signals that they give to us.
Just as Amber Miller explained who gave birth only a few hours after finishing her marathon: “Everybody was supportive of my decision; no one tried to dissuade me or questioned whether I should do it so near my due date. I knew my body: if anything hadn’t felt right, I wouldn’t have gone ahead. I was full term, so I knew if I were to go into labour, it was a healthy time for that to happen.”
The stories of pregnant runners are encouraging; however, it is obvious that there is a lack of information available for aspiring pregnant runners. As a trained runner, what is the recommended weekly mileage for each month of the pregnancy? How do the hormonal changes affect our proneness to injury? How is our heartbeat affected? How do we handle the change of body balance due to the growing tummy during exercise? How does our fitness level and performance change during pregnancy? How long does it take to recover? And finally, how are our tempo and interval sessions affected during these months?
These are just a few questions in my mind which I think should be further discussed. But I believe the lack of record on pregnant women’s achievements only means that they have achieved without recording it. Perhaps only their kids know how amazing their mothers did during their pregnancy. Therefore, it is important that pregnant women are encouraged to explore their limits and to talk about their explorations. Pregnancy should not be “naturally” associated with inactivity. It should not be a taboo to talk about the capabilities of pregnant women.
More studies should be done on the capabilities of pregnant women so that trainers can be equipped with knowledge to advice their pregnant clients. Only when there is more scientific support and knowledge, women will feel more secured and confident to continue running without guilt and worries. Without widely shared knowledge and support systems, women will be more likely to surrender to the traditional and dominant but not testified public opinion of “safe pregnancy is inactivity” and lower their training routine to three times a week for thirty minutes and eventually to none.
Changes do not happen naturally by sitting and waiting. I do believe the benefits of continuous work-out and training with care during pregnancy are far bigger than any harm to the babies and their mothers. This is the mindset and attitude I have while running these days. I hope one day we will know more about the benefits of training during pregnancy so that “to run or not to run?” will be an easy decision for any pregnant woman.
懷孕跑者手記(2)： To run or not to run? (本地跑手 Eszter Csillag)
在懷孕18週完成萊德維爾100 英里越野賽的Erin Drasler說：「當我發現自己懷孕後，我嘗試尋找懷孕女性繼續跑步的成功故事，但的確很少這樣的例子。我想這不是每個人也會做的事。而且跑步的速度隨著體重增加而下降是顯然的感覺。」
正如在完成馬拉松賽事後幾小時生產的Amber Miller 所說：「所有人也支持我的決定，沒有人質疑我不應在預產期期間跑馬拉松。我很清楚自己的身體： 如果我覺得不妥，我絕對不會繼續賽事。而且我的胎兒已足月，所以如果生產的時候該到，也必定是個安妥的時刻。」
改變從來不會在我們坐著等待時發生。我確實地相信持續運動和安全的訓練對於胎兒和母親的好處遠比壞處多。我就是懷著這樣的信念，懷著小生命跑到今天的。但願有一天，世上會有更多支持懷孕期間訓練的數據和知識，那麼 “to run or not to run？” 對懷孕跑者來說不會再是艱難的決定。