'I ran a marathon when I was 31 weeks pregnant – it gave me peace of mind'
Meet Sophie Carter, the impressive mum who ran 3,000 miles during her most recently pregnancy – including a marathon at 31 weeks.
The personal trainer says it helps her feel ‘in control of her body’, and kept running through each of her four pregnancies – even running eight miles a day when she was carrying twins.
While she was pregnant with her youngest child, Teddy, in 2022, she did a 50km race, two 100kms and a marathon at 31 weeks pregnant – which she finished in three hours and 39 minutes.
Sophie describes the feeling of running while pregnant as being ‘like carrying a heavy round backpack on your front.’
She even went for a 12-mile jog the day before she gave birth, and was back in running shoes two days after labour.
The mum-of-five said running helps her to stay mentally healthy while juggling work, carrying a pregnancy and caring for her other young children.
Sophie, from Woodstock, Oxford, said: ‘When you’re pregnant it can feel like your body’s not your own, and you’re being taken over by something out of your control.
‘Being able to keep running gave me that peace of mind to say, “I’m still me”.
‘I ran while I was pregnant with the twins up until 36 weeks pregnant.
‘When I tell people, they’re always very surprised, but I found it really beneficial, especially as it was lockdown and people had nothing to do.
‘I had the goal of qualifying for the world championship, so I wanted to keep things ticking over.
‘Like getting up and brushing my teeth, going for a run is part of my routine.
‘I go out thinking if it ever doesn’t feel good, and I need to stop, I will. At 36 weeks, I felt a contraction and thought something was happening. They were born the following week.’
Sophie, 43, always liked long-distance running, and finished her first marathon in 2006 when she was 25.
Inspired by Paula Radcliffe, the former Team GB marathon runner, Sophie kept up the running throughout her first pregnancy with her daughter, Faith, in 2009.
But when her mum, Auriel, was diagnosed with bowel cancer three years later, Sophie started running even more seriously.
At the time, not only was Sophie pregnant with her second child, Ethan, but her then-husband was posted to Afghanistan as part of the British Army, so she was looking after Faith alone.
She says this is when running became her ‘safe space.’
‘Sometimes I’d run twice a day for up to 20 miles,’ she said.
‘Running was the one thing that made me feel better about myself. It was a safe space, and it gave me a goal to focus on.’
After her mum died in 2017, she started taking on ultramarathons up to 100km – nearly two and half times the distance of those she’d ran before.
‘I thought, “what makes me feel happy?” Running,’ she said.
‘That’s what spurred me on and helped me deal with the grief.’
When Sophie got pregnant with her twins Jaxon and Isla in 2020, she kept running eight miles each day.
Sophie also found out she was six weeks pregnant with her youngest child, Teddy, just a week before a 100km race in April last year.
‘I talked to my partner and thought I may as well do the event as I’d already booked it,’ she said
‘I told myself that if I don’t feel good then I’ll just stop.”
Sophie finished sixth, finishing in eight hours and 30 minutes – a mere 19 minutes off her personal best.
‘Doing it with one single pregnancy felt a lot easier than with twins,’ she said.
She did a 50km race six weeks later, and was the first of all the female runners to cross the finish line.
Then, when she was 20 weeks along, with ‘the tiniest of bumps’, she took part in The Race to The Stones, which is a 100 km cross-country race from Oxfordshire to Wiltshire.
Sophie finished in the top ten overall and was the second woman to cross the finishing line.
October last year, when she was 31 weeks pregnant, she finished the Virtual London Marathon in just three hours and 39 minutes.
‘I did the marathon in the morning, and then I went home and took the kids out for a walk in the afternoon,’ she said.
‘The bump slows you down, but it was fast for someone at 31 weeks. I was just pleased to be able to cover the distance.
‘Your muscles hold the baby in place, so there’s hardly any movement.’
Sophie says prepping to run a marathon when you’re pregnant isn’t actually that different to usual.
‘The main difference is I’m running slower and listening to my body a lot more,’ she said.
‘Most people I tell are amazed by how far I can run and say, “I can’t even do that when I’m not pregnant.”
‘It’s a myth that women shouldn’t exercise while pregnant. My pregnancies were healthy, and I haven’t had any problems.
‘Historically, people have said you need to sit still, rest and eat for two.
‘But I’ve spoken to neonatologists who say that’s the worst thing you can do as afterwards it’s much harder to get back into being active.
‘Dealing with the challenges of parenting while pregnant, I find running massively helps my mental and physical well-being.
‘A gynaecologist told me there isn’t a maximum distance women can run while pregnant, it’s just what they’re comfortable with.
‘For most women, 5k might be comfortable, but for me 100k is still comfortable.
‘If women are used to exercising, being pregnant is not a reason to stop. Women should listen to their bodies and continue if it feels okay.
‘I understand it’s an individual thing and if you don’t want to, that’s okay. I want my experience to show women you can continue to exercise to a level they’re used to.
‘You’ll be okay and your baby will be too.’
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