Can You Run a Marathon While Pregnant? Tips For Playing it Safe

You have two big dates coming up -- the due date for your baby and a marathon you signed up for before you even knew you were pregnant. Can you run a marathon pregnant?

Should you should scrap your plans to run a marathon, or lace up your sneakers anyway and kick some major butt with baby in tow?

What Happens To Your Body During Pregnancy?

If this is your first pregnancy, you’ll be flying into this situation blind. It’s hard to judge how you will feel by the time the marathon date rolls around if it is still months away.

Let’s look at what happens to your body during pregnancy.

staying fit while pregnant
  • Weight gain: As all runners know, gaining a few extra pounds can make running even a 5k seem like a Herculean feat. Your time will be slower and it will feel much more difficult than it did when you were 10 or 20 pounds lighter.

During pregnancy, a woman with a healthy weight should pack on 25 to 35 pounds. If you

are nearing full-term when you run, you’ll be carting around a lot of extra weight.

  • Clumsiness: All that extra weight around the midsection can cause clumsiness even in the most coordinated of women. You may find you struggle with balance during running, and all pregnant women need to watch out for the possibility of dangerous falls.

  • Swelling in the legs and feet: In the last couple months of pregnancy, calves and ankles tend to swell to ginormous proportions when you are on your feet. A marathon requires you to be upright for hours, which may result in extremely swollen legs that will need to be elevated to return to normal size.

  • High blood pressure: Even women who don’t normally have high blood pressure can struggle with it during pregnancy. It can come on quickly, and it can require bed rest for you.

Why are you running?

Exercise is a good thing for expectant moms. It can help them feel better, prevent complications like gestational diabetes, and it’s a great stress reliever.

But a marathon is more than a little light exercise. If you are thinking about running a marathon while pregnant, you need to consider your motivation.

Are you running solely for fitness? If you are, you don’t need to run a full marathon to remain fit.

A much smaller race, or even untimed fun runs, can retain your fitness level throughout pregnancy.

Are you running to reach a personal best? If so, you’ll likely want to sign up for that marathon next year after you’ve given birth to your baby and had time to lose your pregnancy weight.

With all the extra weight you’ve gained, you likely won’t be able to reach a personal best anyway. It’s hard to set a PR when you’re carrying extra pounds.

Ask a Professional

Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is unique. Before making a decision to run a marathon, you should ask your doctor’s advice.

She’ll be able to look at your medical history, running background, current fitness level and give you a qualified opinion about whether running a marathon at this point will be safe for you.

The Ultimate Decision

In the long run, whether you run a marathon while pregnant is entirely up to you and your partner. No one knows your body or limitations better than you do, and no one cares more about your growing baby than its parents.

So take a good look at your full situation and figure out a way to keep everyone safe, fit and happy.