This time last year runner Jasmin Paris had set an incredible new overall record time for the Ramsay Round, smashed the women’s best for the Bob Graham Round, was on the way to being crowned world champion in extreme skyrunning and preparing to tackle the planet’s biggest trail running race, UTMB (in which she placed 6th). Before the year was out she had also set a new women’s best time for the Paddy Buckley Round, thus completing a record-breaking hat-trick of the UK’s premier 24-hour mountain running challenges.
Fast forward 12 months and Jasmin is relishing her latest challenge – pregnancy. For the 33-year-old and her husband Konrad Rawlik it will be their first child. Jasmin (as of August 5th) is 24 weeks pregnant – and still running five times a week, albeit a lot slower and with much more care. We caught up with Jasmin to talk about this latest chapter in her life.
How far pregnant are you and how are you finding it?
I’m 24 weeks pregnant, and I’m very happy. That’s not to say it’s all been enjoyable – I felt quite sick for the first 18 weeks or so – but it’s so amazing to have a little person growing inside me, that the discomforts haven’t really mattered.
Did you always plan to get pregnant and is that why you crammed so many epic challenges/races in last year?
Yes, getting pregnant in 2017 was definitely part of the plan, although one never knows with these things, and I know I am very lucky that it worked out. It probably did influence my running in 2016, particularly with the Paddy Buckley, which I squeezed in at the very end of the season. The sensible thing would have been to leave that until the next spring, when I could have run it on fresh legs, with some recce runs under my belt. As it was, I hoped that wouldn’t be an option.
How has being pregnant changed the way you train/race? What is it like running when you have a little somebody growing inside you?
If I compare my ‘running’ now to my running at the start of last year, the two are worlds apart. Back then, when I was running seriously (relatively speaking), I was frequently training twice a day, genuinely enjoying my 5am starts, and the adrenaline buzz of pushing myself hard. But by the end of last season I was totally exhausted, and had switched to swimming instead of running for training between adventures. Over the winter my running did pick up again, but somehow I didn’t have the same motivation (knowing that my goals for the year were of a different nature), and the 5am starts grew less frequent… And then I got pregnant (I discovered it after a rather intense ski touring trip, which I found harder than expected), which changed things again.
Physically, I felt the effects on my breathing and heart rate very early on, within the first month or two (this is earlier than most books write about, but I suppose it depends how well you know your body, and what level you are training at). Since then, I’ve been gradually getting slower, especially uphill. I’m now running about 5 times a week (typically for around an hour in the hills), but I’ve cut out the longer runs and am doing more swimming instead. I’ve stopped pushing myself hard, and am much more careful on technical terrain. It is completely different, taking risks with another life, as opposed to your own.
How important is it to you to keep running/training while you are pregnant and why?
Running gives me a sense of freedom, and takes me to the hills and mountains where I am happiest. So although I am getting slower, and no longer get quite the same adrenaline buzz, running still gives me that feeling of peace and satisfaction, which I would be sad to lose.
Do you still plan to race at all during pregnancy?
Yes, I’m still running occasional races, although I’m limiting myself to shorter and local ones now. I raced the Buttermere Horseshoe at 18 weeks pregnant (one of the Lakeland Long Classics, 22 miles and 2500m ascent), but I took it very easy, walking all the climbs and jogging the rest. It was actually very enjoyable not to be racing hard – I took a picnic and chatted to people along the way, and still managed to finish in less than 6 hours (just, 5:59!)
How far into the pregnancy do you plan continue running/training?
I haven’t really set myself any goal/limit in terms of how long I will continue running, I’m just planning to keep it up for as long as it feels comfortable. If I make it to 9 months, I will be delighted, but if I have to stop before then that’s fine too, we’ll have to wait and see.
Was advice on running while pregnant easy to find and what are the best tips you have put into practice?
I think there has been a shift in the approach to pregnant women and exercise in recent years, and the advice is overwhelmingly to continue exercising (up to moderate intensity) providing you were already doing so. As such, my doctor and midwife have been very supportive of my running. That said, I probably don’t really fall into the average category of pregnant women runners, as demonstrated when I tried to work out whether I should race the Scottish Islands Peaks Race at 13 weeks pregnant. After all, how does one assess the risk of a race that involves 43 hours of sailing and 15 hours of running over mountains in one weekend? It isn’t exactly the sort of thing which people conduct research on… Being a scientist, I read the literature for myself, and made my own decision (I competed, with caution) based on the evidence available (a couple of references are below).
I also have several fell running friends who have had children, and it has been reassuring to hear of their experiences, and the challenges they faced. For example, it was nice to know I’m not the only pregnant lady that has needed to go for a wee multiple times on an hour long run (thank goodness I’m a fell runner!) Probably most importantly, I know through them that not everyone can run until the day they give birth, no matter how keen they are, and so I’m prepared for the day I have to switch to walking instead.
Your diet – how has this changed since becoming pregnant? Any cravings? Any new cravings specific to post run/training or even while out run/training?
It’s only been the last few weeks that I’ve not felt sick, so I’m still coming around to the idea of any cravings… For the first trimester I couldn’t stand the sight of chocolate, or tea (previously my main form of hydration!) but thankfully both items are making a comeback.
Have you found other forms of fitness/activity more appealing since being pregnant – yoga, certain gym exercises etc?
I’ve always done a lot of swimming, and now it feels especially good, since the bump doesn’t really matter in the water. I like to train outside though, and that may soon become a problem, because it is getting increasingly difficult to zip my wetsuit up…
Does having a strong runner’s mentality help when it comes to being pregnant?
Ha ha, not sure about that! Although the feeling of nausea in the first trimester was surprisingly similar to that at the end of a long run – I see now that the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) was excellent training for pregnancy 😉
Are you still keeping an eye on race results, challenge times etc… and are you missing not being competitive at the sharp end?
Sometimes. Mostly, I don’t really care, since I’m just so thankful to be pregnant. But occasionally it’s difficult, for example at Gran Paradiso (the first of the Extreme Skyrunning Skyraces this year, in Italy), when my husband and our friends all had that post-race buzz, and were excitedly comparing experiences. Overall though, I think the break is just what I needed after the intensity of 2016. I think that by next spring I’ll be raring to get out again.
Some women seem to run even better post-baby, is this what you’re hoping/expecting too?
I’ve heard that suggested, and if it happens, it will obviously be amazing. That said, who knows what the future will bring. Ultimately, I’ll be content if I can just get out onto the hills, with my little family in tow.
* References: Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 1 – exercise in women planning pregnancy and those who are pregnant. Part 2 – the effect of exercise on the fetus, labour and birth. Kari Bø et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2016.
* Read more: In Love With Mountains – Jasmin Paris interview with The Ridge, published July 2017. This interview was conducted prior to Jasmin announcing her pregnancy.