This is part one of the only account online of a woman running ultra distances while pregnant.
Hello intrepid explorers,
Today I am excited to share the first part of a unique blog topic: running ultras while pregnant.
When I first realized I was pregnant I searched the internet for accounts by other seasoned ultra and mountain runners continuing to progress in mileage, speed, distance, and strength while pregnant. What I found was disappointing to say the least. I found accounts of seasoned runners who were scared into a comparatively sedentary lifestyle by their care providers, ultrarunners reducing their mileage to what would have been less than their pre-pregnant rest week mileage, and a whole lot of shaming women who still want to focus on themselves as athletes while they grow new humans.
These negative accounts were colored by strange Stepford Wives-esque undertones about using running to maintain an attractive shape for one’s partner or to prepare for labor—not to simply be oneself as an athlete or for pure self-care. Let’s be clear: I run to improve myself, to satisfy myself, and to progress on my Bodhisattva path. My running is selfish in the best ways possible and these articles will reflect that philosophy.
Despite conversations with researchers studying the topic of distance running while pregnant and some serious time spent combing the blogosphere I could not find a single account of a woman who had run an ultra while pregnant. I do not believe I am the first woman to run two ultras while pregnant but out of shame women have chosen not to share their beautiful athletic successes in this realm to this point.
After running my twenty-fourth ultra while seven weeks pregnant I decided to share my experiences for posterity, inspiration, and to break down our non-fact-based fear of the pregnant body performing at a high level athletically. After running my twenty-fifth ultra while twelve weeks pregnant I realized that the pregnant body may be the most productive ultrarunning bodily vehicle: I wasn’t sore, my resting heartrate was a normal 44, and I ran again the next day feeling spry.
This first part of the ultrarunning while pregnant series contains my firsthand accounts of the gnosis and physical power I experienced while running my twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth ultras seven to twelve weeks pregnant. Future pieces on this topic will contain some practical training ideas specific to pregnant ultra and mountain runners that I employed in my own pregnant ultrarunning journey so far.
As you read these articles please bear in mind: I do not consider myself to be a talented or naturally-gifted athlete—quite to the contrary. My ability to contain this volume of mountain pleasure while creating new life is directly related to diligent hard work and a lifestyle committed to balanced health and my athletic practice. I believe that anyone is capable of what I have done while pregnant and hope to inspire others to come forward and share their inspirational stories.
Please enjoy and connect if you found this touches a nerve shoot me an email or a comment.
Ultra twenty-four// first while pregnant
seven weeks pregnant
~ 8,000' elevation gain
not only can I do these things alone and self-sufficiently, I must. I must ask and answer questions of endurance, meaning, limits, motivation, and face my own egoic lack of self love as it arises. only I, with my coven of rock, trees, ice, and animals, can answer me. my pain is strong, motivating and I am stronger than it. I can only be stronger when I drop all false barriers between me and my experience, I can only achieve my full potential through total abolition of a cultured self and through pure vulnerability. there must be no mediator between me and my experience of the sacred mountain. I must be alone so I can cry joyful tears without shame. I must be alone so my ego stops complaining and my capable body takes over. I must be alone so I can hear the karst whispering to my right and my left as I whisk through it. as I approached this lunar rise at the edge of ancient tundra I was alone and feeling jubilant. I was a cultureless beast gnawing at the miles and elevation with gusto. too quickly it was over.
Ultra twenty-five// second while pregnant
Cougar and Squak Mountains, Issaquah, WA
twelve weeks pregnant
~ 3,000' elevation gain
today I ran my twenty-fifth solo, unsupported mountain ultra. this one, as so many before, took place on my favorite running mountain in the whole world.
since last month's full moon ultra on Mount Rainier failed to be interpreted as a physiologic event I decided to stack some more stimulus on top of it. I began mercifully, doling out care and patience as liberally as I would to my child. then something wonderful happened: my body stopped needing it. I flowed past the places where I usually pause to stretch or pee rolling up and over hills with the hopeless force of a loaded train. my mind did very little save for consciously telling tight muscles to relax or cuing me to breathe in a way that would calm my nervous system. it seemed there was no amount of lactic acid my blood cloud not transport, my liver process, and my breath expel.
the the pain of the back-to-back ultras stacked tight against my skin providing my ego a thin opening to speak. it told me of my unworthiness, pleaded with me to bail early, then it stopped after only a couple feeble attempts. hello, mile twenty ghouls.
then stumps began to animate, walking their crumbly hulking forms around the open understory near the trail faceless ents trying to pass for human. enchanted weasels darted back and forth across the path keeping just inside the shadows. in the luminous darkness of the lee side of the mountain I observed near-translucent greenish slugs and their quick beetle friends (who wore a new spectrum of black). long-lost holly sisters combed my wild curls as they lapped at my bra strap. my posse of fern friends couldn't contain their excitement and leapt into my way to exchange high fives.
I cawwed hopefully into the voiceless expanse and Raven cawwed back. we spoke for ten minutes or more, he matching my timbre and me repeating the sound in numbers equaling his calls. when the conversation didn't reach a logical end and I grew cold I rose and continued. a minute farther down the trail a four-point blacktail leapt magnificently perpendicular to my direction of travel. he's the biggest deer I've seen on my home hill in over a thousand runs.
yet again I am humbled by a mountain with whom I am so intimately familiar. she has many more lessons to teach as long as I continue to listen to her.