The moment I found out I was pregnant with Joni – after weeing on a stick and seeing two blue lines appear – I went for a run. It was early, around 6.30am, so Rich was sleeping. I remember it being a cool September morning with a clear blue sky and the sun just beginning to shine. I ran fast through the streets of Walthamstow, elated, a new bounce in my step.
I’d been running daily, between three and seven miles, for five years. Nothing put me off – i’d be out there with severe hangovers, in torrential rain, on icy winter pavements, in the blisteringly hot Sicilian morning sun. I love running. I love feeling my heart beat fast, my body warming up – and perspiring – controlling my breath so that i’m not panting. I love crunching the auburn autumn leaves with my heel, feeling the sting of a December morning on my cheeks, running under a pink sky as the sun begins to rise and darting past newly blooming spring flowers.
So when, at 8 weeks gestation, I developed bad morning sickness – throwing up from the moment I rose until midday, sometimes longer – I was fairly disappointed that I could no longer go for my morning run. I assumed that the sickness would ease at 12 weeks (that’s what everyone tells you) and that i’d then be able to run again – but mine continued until week 30.
To plan b: swimming. I realised I could swim through the sickness if I had a small snack first thing, so from then on I swam between 30 and 60 lengths every weekday morning. If I felt particularly weak, tired or sick – i’d take it easy, but often I felt amazing in the water so i’d take to the fast lane and swim front crawl – much to the surprise/ dismay/ disgust of fellow swimmers who assumed pregnant women are disabled by the foetus growing inside them – until I hit a (metaphorical) wall. I was still swimming up to, and past, my due date. I could see the man on the front desk growing increasingly concerned as my bump got bigger and bigger and I kept appearing. He’s Chinese and explained that in his culture pregnant women stay at home, sometimes in bed, for the last few months.
Swimming helped me to maintain a decent level of fitness throughout my pregnancy. I felt heavy and tired towards the end, but never breathless. And so after giving birth, I spent the first two weeks resting and doing pelvic floor exercises (SO important – if you don’t want piss yourself when jumping/ sneezing/ laughing etc for the rest of your life) then I began doing gentle pilates, using YouTube videos, and baby yoga classes. At six weeks I got back into the advanced pilates I was practising pre-pregnancy and today, at 12 weeks postpartum, I went for my first run.
As well as being my first post-birth run, it was the first time i’ve been separated from Joni. I left Rich with two bottles of expressed milk and a recently-fed, chirpy baby and set off. I was wearing my new Nike running trainers from Runners Need, chosen by the assistant after she watched how my feet landed when I jogged on a treadmill, and a very supportive Nike sports bra. As I ran along the pavement and into Priory Park, I was surprised by how comfortable it felt to run. Then after a half a mile, I felt a burn in my throat. It reminded me of when I first started running and all the shit that had settled in my lungs was pushed up into my throat. That’s why runners spit. So I spat, did some stretches and set off again. I went round the park three times (about 5k), stopping to catch my breath and stretch, remembering little tricks like arching your back for a burst of energy (yoga tip), then spotted a dodgy geezer lurking in the Philosopher’s Garden and sprinted back home to safety. Feeling a bit scared always helps me to pick up speed.
At home I warmed down, did half and hour of pilates then showered. And I’m still feeling HIGH an hour later, as Joni feeds and I write this.
So good to be running again.