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Cape Town - Running through pregnancy

Good Content from: Saucony Ambassador, Ayesha Specker (2019 Boston Marathon finisher)

An Aussie based in Cape Town, Ayesha, shares her journey of how she ran throughout her pregnancy and managed her fitness post baby and mid Covid-19

Running is how I unwind, relax, think and centre myself. Even if I have an intense training session, it’s where I go through all my thoughts with a fine tooth comb.

Now throw into the mix being pregnant. That’s a whole lot of thoughts. Thoughts that I had never had before. I’d have to run an Ultra to get through those thoughts which was highly unlikely in my case being pregnant.

I was very lucky with the pregnancy I had. Obviously the first trimester was the hardest being so tired even after sleeping 12 hours. I was also injured in my foot (tendonitis) which meant I couldn’t run for 6 weeks so I turned to my absolute worst… sitting on a bike in the gym. Turns out I actually didn’t mind it after all. The hardest part was finding the motivation to get out the house when you feel like you have bags under your eyes that weigh a tonne and feel like you have been out all night partying when you’ve actually slept 12 hours. Thankfully, my dear husband Sacha, insisted I put on my shoes and get out the house for a run, I’ll feel better he said. Sure enough, as always, he was right. Then I was home to eat all the food and get ready for another 12 hours of sleeping waking up half way through the night to eat salty crackers next to the bed.

Once I got the all clear from the physio to run I was beyond happy and probably about 3-4 months pregnant by this point. I was still running 8-10km and was still able to run 5min or faster p/km. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was due the exact same day as me so from then on we stuck together on all our runs as we got bigger, slower and needed to pee more.

From very early on the baby was sitting quite low. That didn’t really effect me until she started to grow. I literally had to pee all the time as she was right on my bladder. Every time I ran, I would have to stop and pee. I began to familiarise myself with the cleanest public toilets on the promenade and exactly what time they opened. I even once had to plan a run around this one bathroom as I had to keep needing to go to the loo so I just ran 1km loops around this one spot, people thought I was mad.

 

I was lucky enough to be able to run all the way up until Poppy was born at 39.5 weeks. Although slower and shorter runs I actually really enjoyed it and baby would always be asleep when I ran. I was also walking a lot and doing Sweat 1000, which I loved as it was air conditioned and by this point I was big, hot and sweaty in Feb (Summer).

My husband would come and cycle next to me sometimes when I ran and noticed some shocking looks I would get from older women because I was pregnant and running. I would always tell him the staring and the shaking of heads I would get but he never believed me. On a few occasions women actually stopped me to ask if I should be running or not as it’s not healthy for the baby!! Obviously, I wanted to tell them exactly how I felt in my native Australian tongue but, forcefully withheld.

It obviously made me angry. They don’t know my body. They didn’t know me before I was pregnant and how I was running everyday anyway. Why should they have the right to comment on what I am doing? They are not my doctor nor are they professionals. Sometimes I would play over and over in my head when I was running the perfect come back but never actually said it as to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered and maybe the fact that I was so out of breath.

Running worked for me. I loved being able to still do what I loved when so many people told me I would have to stop when I fell pregnant. Obviously, everyone if different and every pregnancy is different.

 

Then baby came. Although when I was pregnant, all I wanted to do was run and train again but once the baby came I was so happy in my newborn phase induced by coffee. At 3 weeks pp I decided to give a run a go. I was feeling good, strong and curious about how my body would feel. Wow, did it feel weird. If you don’t want too much information then stop reading now. I only managed 4km and I peed my pants and didn’t even know till I had finished the run. Things just didn’t feel right. So, it was back to doing some serious pelvic floor exercises for me.

In terms of energy levels, strangely I was ok. I think I had adrenaline still in my body or maybe it was the coffee. Being outdoors really helped boost my energy levels…

Then lockdown happened at 6 weeks pp. My mum was supposed to fly over from Australia to see me and that got cancelled. I was so looking forward to cruising the prom with Mum and Poppy pushing the pram. Obviously, the running stopped. By 6 weeks I was running again and I had done my first 10km at a decent pace and now we were being locked up in our homes until further notice. Luckily we had a newborn to keep us company and I dived into some serious online workouts. They saved me! I was doing workouts from The Strom Centre and Sweat1000 and it was honestly my saviour especially as someone who is used to running everyday. 

Then I lost it like most other runners out there and started to run happy laps around the garage space, up and down stairs. A 60m loop about 100 times is enough to drive you crazy! Thankfully due to doing online workouts I was getting much stronger and didn’t feel so weak anymore.

Then we were told that we could run 5km radius from our home from 6-9am. I laid out my clothes the night before like I would the night before a race.

That first morning I was up earlier than anyone so excited to run. I pulled out my new Kinvara 11’s, never been worn and roped in my neighbour Matt and off we went. It was honestly the most perfect morning to run, misty and cool. I was starting to feel like myself again. It was also so good to see so many runners out there again. I’m pretty sure they were smiling but we were all wearing masks or buffs. I knew they were smiling. Just before lockdown started I managed to get a new pair of the Kinvara 11’s. They were fresh, clean and still in the box. They were going to be my ‘come back’ shoe. Who doesn’t love new shoe day? I have did over 800km in those ones and I call them my Lockdown/Come Back shoe.

Now, I’m 8 months post baby and apart from still not being about to do a proper race I feel better than ever and somewhat stronger than before. No, I am not doing the distances I was before but I am ready to commit to a race, train and work hard the way I used to. The way I know how. The longest I have run was 24km at a decent pace. Unfortunately, the post long run nap didn’t happen because I am a walking milk machine now but still, it was worth it to be out there pushing myself whilst having a smile on my face.

 

I’m a morning person so waking up, feeding baby, a few sips of coffee and out the door isn’t a hard thing for me. Yes, everyday is different especially with a baby as anything can happen but when I see a gap I take it.

I know it’s not like that for all mum’s. It can be seriously tough. Mentally, emotionally and physically. I struggled a lot having the feeling of being so trapped and not being about to be with my family. I turned to running as my escape, my alone time to really connect with myself again and for just a moment feel like the old me again.

 

Follow Ayesha on instagram - ayeshiespecker

Follow Sacha and his amazing photography - sachaspex