Irish runner Moire O’Sullivan is an inspiration. In 2009, after fell running for just a couple of years, she became the first person to complete the Wicklow Round, which involves running 26 peaks in less than 24 hours. This incredible feat is documented in her book, Mud, Sweat and Tears.
Of course, mums might scoff at the Wicklow Round. What are 26 mountains when you’ve given birth? Joking aside, pregnancy, labour and the breastfeeding marathon that follows are extremely tiring. Few of us feel like running round the block after pregnancy, never mind shinning it up mountains. But if anyone can inspire us to get back out there, it’s Moire.
She is now the proud mum of baby Aran, who was born in July last year. Determined not to let her fitness level slide post-pregnancy, she began running again as soon as she could and even came third in a race in November. We asked her how she managed to get back into her running shoes so soon.
How far into pregnancy did you stop running?
I made sure I listened to my body, but I was also determined to keep running for as long as possible. In my second trimester, I ran slower and slower as the bump grew. Then, in week 30, I got the world’s worst stitch on a run and had to walk home in pain without my mobile phone. That gave me a fright, so I stopped my regular running, but continued biking and swimming, and ran a few orienteering courses, very slowly.
How soon after the birth did you start running again?
At first my pelvic floor felt too weak to run, so I went out on my road bike instead. That was two weeks after giving birth and it allowed me to get out of the house for an hour, giving me a break from nappies. I started running and swimming again after my six-week postnatal check, but only for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Did running feel different after having a baby?
I hired a coach, as I’d heard stories of women injuring themselves by doing too much, too soon and I wanted someone in the know to guide me back to fitness. Having Aran has made me more focused on what I do with my time. Thanks to his timetable and my coach, I now train much more efficiently and effectively than I did before.
Do you find motivation harder after having a baby?
I actually find it easier to run now. I want to be a good role model for Aran, so it’s vital to be fit. Plus it’s a full-time job looking after a baby, so it’s important to look after myself. When I come back from a run, I’m more relaxed and I really look forward to seeing and spending time with my son. If you’re a happy mum, you’re more likely to have a happy baby. Motivation-wise, I don’t struggle, as I love running, but it helps to have an encouraging coach, a supportive husband and races planned as goals.
Do you run with Aran in a buggy?
I bought a BOB Revolution SE stroller, because I love spending time with Aran and I want him to enjoy the outdoors. It has also reduced the need for babysitters. I’d definitely recommend it – it’s amazing how easy it is to push while running and it’s good on most terrains – last week I took Aran, our dog and the BOB on a relatively smooth off-road path.
Does Aran enjoy the stroller runs?
When he was younger, he would fall asleep, but now he stares at what is passing him by. He’s only cried twice during a stroller run: once because he was hungry (so I stopped to feed him) and the other time because he was cold (so I put the weather guard up).
Well done on coming third in the Sea 2 Summit adventure race four months after giving birth! How did you do it?
I was paranoid about not losing weight after the pregnancy, so I was really focused on getting back to my original size and having the race as a goal helped me achieve that. My husband was really supportive and he was at the finish line with Aran, telling me how proud he was of me. I trained with my coach for two-and-a-half months before the race, doing two hours a day, six days a week. Thanks to my husband, my mum and a great crèche, I found the time.
Do you have any running goals for the next few years?
I’ll do some of the National Adventure Race Series and a few IMRA [Irish Mountain Running Association] mountain races this year. But I was fortunate in achieving a lot of my big running goals before I started a family. My priorities have changed for the moment, and for the next few years I hope to keep fit and healthy as well as be a fun, loving mum. Maybe when Aran is bigger, I’ll bring him along on some cool runs.
RUNNING AFTER BABY
When is it safe to hit the road (or trails) again?
‘How soon you exercise after giving birth is personal,’ says consultant gynaecologist Michael Dooley, who works at The Poundbury Clinic in London and Dorset, and specialises in gynaecology for athletes. ‘If the mother had complications (such as a caesarean), she may be at risk of hernia or joint injury if she runs too soon. Even after a straightforward delivery, the body has undergone huge hormonal and physical changes, plus most women are tired and some will be anaemic. So getting back into exercise should be done gradually. Gentle exercise is great postnatally and you can regain the same level of fitness after having a baby as you had before. But your fitness must be regained over time. Regard yourself as unfit and approach your running from there. In other words, begin with very gentle exercise, such as walking and stretching, and then progress to running, doing just short distances to begin with. Everyone is different. Decide with your health visitor or GP when it’s best for you to return to running.’