Reflections from one year of running post pregnancy
Updated: Jan 5
I have a one year old! It's a pretty exciting milestone, and has coincided with watching her start to walk, say a few words, and even do a few little runs. That also means I’ve been running for one year post giving birth.
It definitely hasn’t gone how I thought it would.
I expected to have run two marathons and an ultra by now. So far, two of them have been cancelled and one has been rescheduled twice. Obviously no one could have predicted how 2020 would play out, but it has definitely caused havoc with my running plans.
My first year of postpartum running started well. I did my first few runs about 5-6 weeks post birth. I ran a 10km race at 13 weeks post birth. And I built up to 70km weeks by about 5 months post birth.
More recently, it has been challenging and frustrating to keep training for a moving marathon deadline, but there have still been some highlights:
A sub 18 parkrun in March
Almost equaling my 10km PB at a time trial in June
An 84min half in January (still a way off my PB but I was happy with it at 7months pp)
Second place finishes in two 20km trail runs (November and February)
A solo marathon time trial in April
There have also been a few key things that have stood out over the year. Some I’ve blogged about before, some are new.
Sleep has been a bigger factor than I expected
This probably sounds ridiculous, because everyone knows new babies rarely sleep well. But the ups and downs of the sleep regressions we have experienced over the last 13 months have really worn me out. I think the biggest thing is that I wasn’t getting enough sleep for the amount of running I was doing.
There have been some hard periods and some better ones. I was pushing through it significantly better when I had a race to train for. More recently, the desire to keep sleeping has proven stronger than the desire to go for a run, even though my volume has dropped way back. If I was going to do it again, I think I would need to give more consideration to how much running it’s sensible to do on limited sleep.
Marathon PB shape feels like worlds away (for me)
I would love to take a few more minutes off my marathon PB (wouldn’t everyone). But I’m starting to think that’s not realistic for me at the moment.
I’ve had blocks where I’ve run decent weekly totals (90-100km) and big long runs (3hours). I’ve also had blocks where I’ve run some quality speed work (long tempos and shorter 10km work). But I haven’t really combined the two. Partly because I was initially training for a trail ultra, so I favoured hills over speed, and partly because I've just been so tired.
But I feel like I would be nowhere near my marathon PB (2.48) if I was to run one this year.
I was running significantly more volume when I did that time, had a consistent routine, was sleeping a lot more, and had less things to focus on. Training at that level feels impossible at the moment.
Given the current situation with every race being cancelled, I haven't truly tested myself over the marathon distance, so I'm not really sure how far off I am. But I don't feel anywhere near PB level, and I thought I'd probably be closer than I am. Perhaps it’s not going to be a realistic aim for me until my daughter is older.
The upside of that is that I can focus on things that are within the range of what I can achieve at the moment. It’s much easier to stay motivated when your goals are realistic.
I have enjoyed training for 10km
My 10km PB is not as strong as my half marathon or 5km PB, so this might be somewhat of an easy target. Aside from running a marathon, improving my 10km was one thing I was really hoping to do this year.
I have tried to run fast 10kms in the past, but mostly while training for longer distances. In the absence of any longer races at the moment, I’ve made it a bit of focus to run some fast 10km time trials. I’m still chasing an elusive PB after running almost the exact same time three times now (36.30 in 2017, 36.31 in 2018 and 36.32 in 2020). But for the most part, working on it recently has felt more manageable than going out for 3 hour long runs.
Even though I have found it really tiring, I love training for a goal event
Maybe it was the forced break during pregnancy, but I was really motivated earlier this year when I thought I was training for a big race. I loved the feeling of putting in the hard work, knowing I was working towards something and feeling like it was going to pay off on race day. I’ll never know how things would have ended up, but I felt like I was in really good shape for 6 Foot Track in March and I think I would have done pretty well. Hopefully I can recapture that feeling when we can race again.
I am a bit disappointed my daughter hasn't seen me race
This probably sounds silly, because my daughter is one and she doesn't know what a race is. She has seen me run plenty of times, and run with me plenty of times, but doesn't really know what's going on yet.
I was hoping to do something big (like run an ultra) after she was born, to show her that it's possible to challenge yourself and achieve your goals. There are probably other things to take from it, like setting alternative goals and running my own marathon. But it doesn't sound quite as exciting to tell her that everything was cancelled, it was a struggle to keep training and I dialled things back to make them more achievable.
I'm sure there will be other opportunities to show her that I still plan to chase big goals. I can't help but feel a bit disappointed that my first year of postpartum running didn't go as I hoped it would. But hopefully the second one comes with some good stories to tell her when she's older.
Overall, I am happy with the level of fitness I have rebuilt after having my first baby. It hasn't been easy, but I think I've done well to get to where I have. I'm crossing all my fingers there are some opportunities to properly test myself over longer distances in the not too distant future.