I’ve wanted to write this for a while, but haven’t really been able to. I’m not sure why, a part of me thinks maybe it’s for fear of some sort of back lash and the other part of me thinks it’s because I don’t want to make anyone who is going through the journey of trying to have a baby feel like shit. We stopped and started our journey to pregnancy a fair bit, life is not simple, and getting pregnant even less simple! They don’t tell you that bit in school… So I guess if you’re struggling this is your warning I’ll be talking a fair bit about the baby bear, and I totally understand if it is just not what you want to read. There was definitely a time when I couldn’t bring myself to look at anything to do with someone else’s very happy news, and if that makes me a bitch so be it.
I rocked up to the start line of the New York city marathon 8 weeks pregnant, I had ummed and ahhed about if I should do it or not a fair bit, I read articles and spoke to the limited people I could about what I should do, but in the end it would have to be a personal choice for James and I to make. The reason I say James is because this is his baby too and I needed us both to be comfortable with that choice. He luckily has always trusted me to do the right thing. Even when I had a freak out the day before and I called him to ask what I should do, he said “don’t be silly you know what you’re doing here”, and he was right. The professionals tend to say If you’re active prior to getting pregnant then staying active to a similar level (without pushing yourself) is considered a ok, and if you’re not active well it’s probably not the best time to start. Not a doctor in any way, so this is just me rambling off what I’ve read or been told. I would say there isn’t really a lot of advice to be given on endurance sport during pregnancy out there, which I think is a bit of a shame. The advice you get given from doctors also seems to be largely dependent if they themselves are active. I guess we are all subject to a bit of personal life bias. There was always going to be risks associated, but I felt there were already so many risks just from me sitting still, I wasn’t and couldn’t let being pregnant stop me from being.
I was in New York with my lovely friend, Luisa. She was one of the few people who knew about my news, from a safety point of view, and also because I was being sick most mornings/afternoons/evenings. I had told her before we travelled, and let her know if she would rather go with someone else less pregnant then that was cool, luckily she was happy to have us along still.
It was early and we were nervous, but the organisation had been spot on. We had got the bus over to Staten Island and it was super slick. Arriving at the start there was food, hot drinks and even therapy dogs, and we just found a spot to chill and have our breakfast. Before we knew it we were in our start pen, where there were porter loos for any last minute nervous wees, and the bins to chuck your keep warm clothes. New York New York being blasted from the speakers at the start was super emotional, this was/is the greatest marathon in the world! Luisa and I wanted to start together even though we knew we would lose each other instantly. Her going after Sub 4 and me going after slow and steady.
You start by running over the Verrazano bridge with it’s incredible views of the city, this is a view like no other. Helicopters fly along side you and it is just the most epic start to a race I’ve ever had. A total of 5 bridges would be crossed over the 26.2 and believe it or not this is a decent incline. New York, as it turns out, is far from flat. Quite a lot of people stopped on the bridge to take a selfie with the view, I was a little disappointed by this. Call me old fashioned but I think there are just some moments that should be locked in your memory forever, not in your phones camera roll.
Off the bridge and into Brooklyn as the crowds roared “WELCOME TO BROOKLYN”. When I say roared I mean roared, running through the streets of Brooklyn was my favourite part of this race, I have never heard noise like it. The crowds were already 10 deep, there was music everywhere, people everywhere, dogs everywhere and I was loving life. My favourite soectator was a little baby in a chicken costume, mumma holding a sign saying ‘good cluck’.
I spoke to the baby bear all the way round, fully aware it has no ability to be able to hear me. I narrated what I was seeing, and just checking in with my body to make sure it was happy with what I was doing. I walked the hills and stayed around a 10.30 minute mile through out, some of the downhills maybe a little quicker. I ran past gospel choirs, high fived the NYPD and had the most intense experience of enjoying everything a marathon is about when it just simply can’t be about speed and grinding your body in to the ground (something I also love).
At about 15 miles you come to the Queensboro bridge, this is a really weird one because the bridge is long and silent, all you can hear is the feet of runners pounding the road. You know you’re about to hit Manhattan, and you know it’s about to go insane. It’s a really calming moment to take in everything you’ve just seen and prepare yourself for that final 10 miles, however this incline is one of the biggest and hardest of the day. As you come off the bridge you can feel the noise building, yep you actually feel it in your bones. And if you thought Brooklyn was loud, Manhattan is just another level. The crowds are huge, lining first avenue with signs and shouts. Not gonna lie I was pretty dead here, running a marathon, not easy! Running a marathon pregnant, also not easy! I stuck with my plan and when it felt too much I walked, and I probably spent a fair bit of the last 10 miles in a quick stroll. Anything that felt like an incline basically, which was quite a lot.
The last 10 miles of the NYC marathon are not easy, it is hilly in places and the bronx doesn’t have the best support. It is still good, but the problem is you have been so spoilt throughout the rest of the route, especially with that stretch through manhattan. It all just starts to feel flat and a little slow, as you start to feel the same.
Once you reach central park though however it is all change again. I cried from the moment I entered the park to the finish line. The park is undulating, but I actually ran the whole thing. I loved the rolling ups and downs, the ups were never long and the downs felt incredible. I loved the crowds, I loved the greenery, I loved the fact I was so close to the finish, but most of all I loved the fact I listened to myself and did this thing with our baby growing away nicely inside me.
I’ve done this 26.2 a fair few times, but crossing this finish line really was everything!!
The organisation here unfortunately gets a bit of a bad rep from me. Walking for what felt like miles to get to the poncho exit, there was a bit of confusion about poncho handouts. This led to a crowd ruckus, which I obviously was not going to get involved in, so instead I had to wait over an hour to pick up my poncho, by that point I was freezing.
I got my poncho, got my friend and gave her the biggest hug. I knew she would be gutted (not my story to tell), but I had been tracking her the whole route and was super proud of what she had done!
We walked 30 something blocks back to our hotel, getting all the love from the locals. Picked up some $2 slices of pizza, laid in bed eating and watching disney movies. It was bliss.
I’ve never been prouder of my body, for creating a human, creating a safe space for this little person to grow, and for allowing me to still be me (to some degree). I know there will be people out there who couldn’t think I was more stupid for running, but honestly the only voice you ever need to listen to is your own. It will let you know what the right thing to do is.
Marathon 22 was all for you!
Clare, this is a beautiful piece. I’ve missed your writing. So happy you two will have this memory. I also totally understand the first paragraph 🤗
Oh thank you so much Jon
Why is it I always end up teary when I read your posts. Really captured where you were at that moment and the sheer joy and elation. xx Dad