Monday, March 11, 2013

That half-marathon while 5 weeks pregnant

I once did a half-marathon while 5 weeks pregnant. That may be my second most memorable pregnancy experience. The first, of course, was the birth of Umi which I would like to think was akin to completing a full marathon. 

I was one of the 288 21-km runners of the Corregidor International Half Marathon (CIHM) on 10 December 2011. And no one knew, at least those in the race—even my running companions, that I was already 5 weeks pregnant. I finished 15th from the last, with a time of 3 hours 34 minutes and 23 seconds.

What follows is my recollection of how I found myself running towards the finish line one remarkable day.

Ultrasound at 4 weeks
9 days before CIHM. I learned about my pregnancy a week before CIHM 2011. My first ultrasound indicated that I was 4 weeks pregnant. The doctor immediately prescribed Duphaston for the developing fetus to hold on and advised me to stop any strenuous activity until the second trimester. The latter came as a shock to me as I was then at the height of my running and yoga activities. I just resumed yoga in April and running in July after recovering from a surgical operation due to endometriosis in February. In November, I completed my first half-marathon with Run United and was very excited to try a more hilly terrain for my second half-marathon with CIHM. So there I was, reluctant to follow my doctor’s advice.

The running superwomen. I searched for information on running and pregnancy in the internet. And there I learned about the likes of Amber Mills, who completed a full marathon a few hours before she gave birth. Of course, there are those running divas Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher who trained for their races while pregnant.  Definitely, marathoner pregnant women exist and have given birth to healthy babies. Yet, we also know that these pregnant women did not reach the finish line with an overnight’s work. They have been running way before they became pregnant; thus, running while pregnant is no longer new to their bodies. They also admit to have decreased the intensity of their runs—distance- or speed-wise—during their pregnancy. But they continued running, nonetheless.

If others can, why can’t I? So I thought to myself, “if others can, why can’t I?” But it wasn’t really that easy a decision. Especially that the doctor thought I had a sensitive first trimester. However, apart from the mild cramping that I occasionally experienced that time, which could be due to the stretching of the uterus to adjust to the growing fetus, I felt fine. Also, I was still very eager to exercise and my body seemed to be cooperating. On the following week that I learned about my pregnancy, I still attended Vinyasa yoga until my instructor advised me to put my yoga practices on hold until the end of my first trimester. I discussed with R my plan of joining CIHM. R and I both agreed that my body had been accustomed to running—having progressed from 10 kilometers in July to 21 kilometers in November (and even running way back) —and we believed that it would do no harm to Umi (the name of our growing baby) if I run about 10 kilometers in CIHM at a slow pace. I just had to be more aware of my body as I run; never attempt to go beyond my limit—a level certainly lower than what I used to know especially with a developing Umi within me. And there, I had the green light to join CIHM.

CIHM day. I almost missed the ferry to Corregidor on the day of the race. I noticed that my body had become more demanding of sleep—requiring me to sleep by 10 pm and for at least 8 hours through the night. Having slept at past 12 midnight because of a Christmas party at work, I did not wake up in time for the ferry’s scheduled departure to Corregidor. Luckily, I was able to catch the departing ferry that was 30 minutes delayed.

The sun was up when we arrived at Corregidor Island. I picked up my race kit which I failed to pick up in Manila and found my 2 running companions. We agreed to run at more or less the same pace.

Shortly after the gun was fired, I was surprised to find myself already panting after about 100 meters. Fatigue was kicking in. Was it the lack of sleep the night before? But I also did not get enough sleep the last time I ran 21 kms in mid-November. I believed it must be because of my pregnancy. Earlier that week, my colleagues and I were practicing for our Christmas party dance presentation and I was surprised at how easily I would get exhausted. However, I did not realize that the exhaustion would occur that soon in my running. Thus, I allowed myself to be left behind by my running buddies and ran at a really, really slow pace.

I kept running, or I might as well say I kept on jogging, as I tried to be cautious of what was going on in my tummy. I imagined that the fetus cannot be stirred too vigorously in my tummy so I had to run really slowly. I would say that the early fatigue that caused me to run slowly early on complemented my already growing motherly protective instinct.

I kept on jogging continuously until the 10th kilometre when I decided to start my walk-jog intervals to take time to rest. I relished the opportunity to be able to join this event as it gave me the chance to explore Corregidor on foot. I just wished R was with me to enjoy those moments.

A quick pose in the middle of the 21-km stretch
I also considered ending my actual race at this point. However, I thought it was embarrassing to walk back, against the flow of runners. Besides, I deemed my body was still willing to complete another kilometre, and then another. Moreover, I got challenged with the hilly terrain of the island. The running trail was something that I could not easily find in Manila. Actually, more than the challenge, it was nostalgia that hit me. The hilly terrain was something similar to my two jogging paths in Singapore. And having spent about a year mastering that route, I believed I was capable of conquering this one as well.      

Running towards the finish line
It was a long run and no matter how interesting and beautiful the scenery could get, boredom was likely to set in. I realized this during my previous half-marathon at the Mall of Asia–Roxas Boulevard route where I got fed up with all the music I had saved in my mp3 player. At CIHM, I decided that after listening to some music, I would pray the rosary. Throughout the whole 21-km stretch, I was able to finish all the 4 mysteries of the holy rosary. And If I had only memorized the litany, I would still have enough time to recite them, too. It was actually a beautiful time spent praying.

At probably the 20th kilometre, I went to the loo and checked myself. There was no bleeding; thanked God that Umi and I were fine. I then moved towards the finish line. The last kilometre was the hardest. As I was on a hilly portion, I could already see the finish line below and yet I still had a kilometre to go. I kept running until the finish line got nearer and nearer that finally, finally, I was there. Finally.  

With my running buddies, Arthur and Ivy
My running buddies—who had finished way ahead of me—and I then celebrated our little victory with some photos at the finish line, as we were all excited to share our own CIHM experiences. After all, who would not be so eager to talk after 2-4 hours of solitary running and quietude?     

An inspiration. The CIHM committee awarded the top 10 runners in the male and female categories. Spectators that we were during the awarding ceremony, my running buddies and I were amazed and inspired by the winners. I personally knew one of the top male runners for he was my housemate in college. Right there, I was again reminded of the power of one’s dreams. Back in college, he shared his desire to join the mountaineering organization in our university. A year later, he finally qualified as a member after passing the stringent physical tests of the organization. Later on, he ventured into doing marathons and then ultramarathons. Back in college, I would not have an idea that we would reach this moment—he, being a half-marathon awardee and I, a spectator.

I also recognized a woman from my office who was awarded as one of the top 10 female runners for the 10k category. She seemed to be in her 40s, married, and has children. That was when I told myself to commit to a physically active lifestyle even if I am already a mother. And my decision to join CIHM that day was, hopefully, only the beginning of more physical activities with Umi, with R, and even with our future children.

The day after. The following day, when the euphoria of my half-marathon had partially subsided, paranoia set in. Even if I did not see any bleeding, I believed I still have to get myself checked. So I saw my ob-gyne and was examined internally through an ultrasound. He found out that I had subchrionic haemorrhage and was advised to go on bedrest for about 2 weeks (I didn't and continued to report to work) and prescribed some medicines. It took me exactly two weeks to be back to the normal process of pregnancy.

However, one more week after recovering from the haemorrhage, I started to have mumps. I suspected I got the virus from the large concentration of people in the marathon as the mumps virus have an incubation period of 16-18 days. Or I could have gotten the virus in the mall or wherever. Nonetheless, I realized the concentration of people in a fun run is another risk that a pregnant runner (or just about anyone) has to face. That said, a pregnant woman has to be aware of the consequences whenever she exposes herself to a large crowd.

The doctor could not tell the effect of mumps on the developing fetus. He just assured me that measles have a more adverse effect on the fetus than mumps do. R and I, and many more significant others, prayed for Umi’s health.

Umi at 7 months
Back to the present. It is already 7 months since I gave birth to Umi. And we are deeply grateful for Umi’s excellent health and happy character. I have R to thank for being supportive and understanding of my needs, my colleagues at work who never fail to make me laugh during crunch times, my loved ones who constantly prayed for me and Umi, and above all, His constant graces.

I sometimes ask myself if I would still do those activities that I did (there were other risky ones) in my succeeding pregnancies, given the consequences it may have caused the unborn child. My answer is, it would depend on my physical and emotional condition then. If I would still be a physically active woman—which I intend to be—and there are no serious risks to the baby and myself, I would still do them. But no one can really tell. On another note, I may have to attribute my youth for having done all those adventures and I may no longer be so eager to go on those same adventures in the future. Well, I hope not to lose the youth in me as I age.

The “holistic” lifestyle. On a side note, I believe my pre-pregnancy and pre-natal activities have helped me deliver smoothly. I was lucky to have a short labor of 5 hours. People say that giving birth the natural way—without pain relievers—involves a great deal of energy. That’s why mothers have to prepare for the big day emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I did try to live a “holistic” lifestyle during my pregnancy—doing occasional yoga exercises and spending quality times with myself, Umi, and R, to fill the emotional part; walking as much as I can (after that half-marathon at CIHM), eating healthy food (although I did go overboard on the eating part), and swimming, to fill the physical aspect; and praying, while making a point to hear weekday masses apart from Sunday masses, to strengthen one’s spirituality. I believe my yoga exercises, that firm mindset to deliver naturally, R’s labor coaching, and the prayers, helped me endure those mind-blowing labor pains. Again, I was lucky to go through that difficult process relatively shorter.

I would like to think my holistic lifestyle did pay off. And I haven’t mentioned yet the benefits such lifestyle has brought to my baby. Haha! I should stop here before I start sharing how proud I am of Umi, which R and I now know is a natural feeling parents have toward their children! =)

Sharing the photos I took en route to the finish line. I told you I took this opportunity as a walking tour, too.

The guy I met at the ferry - we shared the
same experience of almost having
to run or swim after a departing ferry
One of the routes 


The killer part - most runners
I saw had to "climb" this part


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