Mums on the Run USA is excited to introduce the lovely Brittany Saia as our April Mum of the Month! Brittany is an exceptional mom and runner and has kindly agreed to share her story with us. She recounts her experience going from a fast runner to a preggo runner, becoming a mother, and her journey back to running and setting new goals. She even talks pumping before a race and "swimming" to the finish of the Boston Marathon .....
My name is Brittany. I’m 30 years old and a physical therapist at Boston Medical Center. I’m honored to be selected for mom of the month! I am so happy to share my story about my life as a new mom and my return to running. My son will be 6 months on May 10, my how time flies!
Before Owen I was an avid marathon runner. I started running casually in college and like to tell people I was a “couch to marathon” runner. Going to school in Boston, I fell in love with the Boston Marathon and worked my way up from a 4:15 marathon in 2009 to a 3:14 marathon in 2016. I met my husband, Greg, in the Cambridge Running Club and we have built our life encouraging each other through races and traveling the country racing marathons together.
Greg and I knew we wanted to start a family and in 2016, and I wanted to devote as much time and effort as I could to running one more PR marathon. I ran my 3:14 at the Philly Marathon. Although I fell short of my A goal (I’m a big fan of A, B, and C goals) I achieved a 3 minute PR and both Greg and I were Boston qualifiers!
I had (unknowingly) big expectations when it came to running during my pregnancy. When I first became pregnant I assumed I could continue my usual “maintenance” mileage and workouts and slow down later in my second trimester as my bump grew.
Little did I know when I went to track practice at 7 weeks pregnant my body was already telling me to slow down. The first thing I noticed during my pregnancy was how out of breath I became with such “minimal” activity. For me, this was a big wake up call that racing was likely going to be too frustrating and I should take this time to just enjoy running.
I ran one half marathon at about 10 weeks and continued 10-12 mile long runs until about 18 weeks. After that, I was running 3-6 miles, gradually including walk-jogs, and never looking at my pace.
I ran the Summer Series 5k’s on the Charles River to run and socialize with my running club. This picture was the second to last race where I am just about 8 months pregnant. I’m just about last across the finish line, but having a blast! Towards the end I was experiencing mild back and hip pain that was affecting my exercise as well as my job as a physical therapist. I used a SI belt which helped at times, but towards the end the most effective solution was just to take walks instead of run.
It was hard to watch my friends and especially Greg get faster as I became slower and more tired, but I tried to take the time to enjoy my alone time and catch up on running podcasts.
Although I gave birth 11 days after my due date (about 24 hours before I was to be induced), the labor and delivery was relatively quick and uneventful. My contractions came on pretty far apart (about 10 minutes) but they were strong enough where I knew it was time to go to the hospital. I had a wonderful midwife and nurse at Boston Medical Center.
Greg and I welcomed Owen Robert Saia about 7 hours after I felt my first contractions. I needed a lot of stitches after the delivery but Owen and I were still able to enjoy skin to skin which helped the situation.
My buildup back to running was as a gradual as the decline during my pregnancy. I began short walks almost immediately to get myself and Owen outdoors and by about 5 weeks I did my first 1 mile walk-jog. Before the walk-jogging, though, I spent 2-3 days a week working on my core and hip strength.
From there, the running progressed, and continued to progress very gradually. I only run 3 days a week and try not to run back to back days. I had minor aches and pains but at this point have been lucky to avoid any injuries. In the first couple of months I did have issues with urinary leaking while running, mostly when I first attempted long runs. I started focusing on kegel exercises at about 2 months postpartum and noticed the issue went away within about a month.
Now before you stop reading because I sound crazy, hear me out! Registration for the Boston Marathon is in September, 7 months before the race. At that time, I was 8 months pregnant and wanting so badly to look forward to something running related. Greg and I both signed up as it felt like the completion to the mission we started when we began to train for Philly. I put very little pressure on myself throughout the training process- if at any point I decided I didn’t want to or couldn’t run Boston, I wouldn’t regret my decision. Two weeks before the race I completed a very slow 20 miler, so at that point I was committed!
The race, as I’m sure most of you know, was not a pleasant experience weather-wise. The unrelenting rain, cold, and wind was hard for me to shrug off, especially given the tenuous fitness I was currently in. I knew whatever pace I started, I was inevitably going to slow down, as my muscle endurance was still not ready to conquer a marathon. By mile 17 I really was looking for a way out.
But, after some mental talk and initiating some walk-jogging (which I should have done from the start) I was able to shuffle across the finish line!
This marathon was never about the performance, but rather having an adventure as a new mother runner.....
This was the longest time I spent away from my son by far (I go back to work in the beginning of May), so this experience was also a much needed opportunity to disconnect from “momming” and focus on me for a bit.
In case anyone is curious, I have been nursing Owen almost exclusively, so the race day pumping was an added element! You are allowed to bring a breast pump as a medical device on the buses to Hopkinton and you can pump in the medical tent. Technically, there is a spot where you can drop off your pump where they transport it back to Boston. Due to the rain, I stayed under the medical tent a little too late and ended up throwing out the (manual) pump I brought. There was quite the collection of mother runners pumping under the medical tent which made for a nice pre-race experience!!
About a week or two before Boston I noticed a breakthrough in my running. I was finding my “easy pace” was similar to my pre-pregnancy pace. In the next few weeks after I recover from the marathon, I look forward to getting back to trying track and tempo workouts. For now, I think my marathoning is on hold. I would like to work on my speed and strength for the next few months and start at the beginning with 5k’s, 10k’s, then potentially a half marathon in the fall. As a new mom, the marathon is not only physically demanding, but requires a lot of free time that I am not ready to give completely to running. My running used to be as routine as brushing my teeth, I almost never had a day when I couldn’t find time to even run a little. These days, when I have that precious free time, running isn’t always on the top of my list. I look forward to enjoying the summer with a combination of stroller jogging, hiking with the family, and solo workouts. Maybe if I’m lucky I can even get back to yoga!
I think the most important aspect of being a mother runner is patience. Patience with my child, my husband, my fitness, and all other expectations.
Sometimes it still feels hard to look at social media and not only see my former running buddies excel with their fitness, but even see fellow new mother runners who appear to be having a smoother recovery than I am experiencing. I know I will get back to the fitness, the size, and the pace I want eventually. Just like I tell myself when Owen takes his fourth 30 minute catnap of the day...nothing lasts forever!
Thank you Brittany for sharing your story with us! You are an inspiring mother and runner to say the least. You can follow Brittany (and Owen!) on Instagram @brit_saia
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