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I’m a mother-of-five and I run ultramarathons while pregnant

A personal trainer who has five children has revealed she ran approximately 3,000 miles during her most recent pregnancy – and has run ultramarathons while carrying her other children.

Sophie Carter, 43, kept up daily exercise while carrying all five of her children, Faith, Ethan, Isla, Jaxon, and Teddy, and believes it has helped her preserve her mental health.

While pregnant with Teddy last year, Sophie completed a 50km race and two 100km races. As late as 31 weeks pregnant, she completed a marathon in under four hours.

Overall, she believes she covered approximately 3,000 miles while pregnant with Teddy, and was back at it just two days after giving birth.

While some mothers might feel concerned about taking up extreme exercise while carrying a baby, Sophie insists it’s completely safe for women who have always been active, after taking advice from medical professionals.

Super-fit mother Sophie Carter (pictured) ran several ultramarathons, some as long as 100km, during her most recent pregnancy with her fifth child, Teddy. Sophie, 43, from Oxford, says training for a marathon while pregnant is not too different from training when she is not carrying a child, and she recommended other expectant mothers who are generally active should remain so while pregnant

The mother-of-five said running helps her maintain a sense of self while pregnant, in a form of self care.

She 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’.’

Sophie, pictured with her partner and her four eldest children, estimates she ran a total of 3,000 miles while pregnant with her youngest child Teddy

Sophie, pictured with her partner and her four eldest children, estimates she ran a total of 3,000 miles while pregnant with her youngest child Teddy

The mother-of-five said she ran an ultramarathon during her most recent pregnancy with the 'tiniest of bumps'

The mother-of-five said she ran an ultramarathon during her most recent pregnancy with the ‘tiniest of bumps’

Sophie ran her first marathon when she was 25 years old and has found comfort from the form of exercise ever since

Sophie ran her first marathon when she was 25 years old and has found comfort from the form of exercise ever since

Sophie running while pregnant

Sophie running while pregnant

Sophie often tops the tables when it comes to ultramarathons and longer races, and has completed huge distances in impressive times

She added that, while many people are shocked at how active she remained while pregnant, it was ‘beneficial’ for her to continue running – especially during lockdown when she was pregnant with twins.

‘I had the goal of qualifying for the world championship, so I wanted to keep things ticking over,’ she explained.

‘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 has always enjoyed long distance running and completed her first marathon in 2006, aged 25.

Inspired by former Team GB marathon-runner Paula Radcliffe, Sophie continued running throughout her first pregnancy with her daughter, Faith, in 2009, to keep fit.

But when her mum, Auriel, fell ill with bowel cancer in 2012, she began to focus on running more seriously.

At the time, Sophie was pregnant with her second child, Ethan, and her then-husband was posted to Afghanistan as part of the British Army.

She was looking after her firstborn Faith at home alone, and running became her ‘safe space’.

Sophie was originally inspired to run while pregnant by Olympian and record-breaking marathon runner Paula Radcliffe

Sophie was originally inspired to run while pregnant by Olympian and record-breaking marathon runner Paula Radcliffe

The personal trainer said she ramped up her training when her mother, Auriel, was diagnosed with bowel cancer

The personal trainer said she ramped up her training when her mother, Auriel, was diagnosed with bowel cancer

Mother-of-five Sophie claims she has been told by health professionals that active women should keep up activity while pregnant

Mother-of-five Sophie claims she has been told by health professionals that active women should keep up activity while pregnant

‘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.’

When Sophie’s mother sadly passed away in 2017, she took up ultramarathons – races up to a distance of 100km. She said the long races helped her process her grief.

When Sophie became pregnant with twins Jaxon and Isla in 2020, she continued running eight miles a day. 

Exercising while pregnant: What is the advice?

According to the NHS, exercising while pregnant does not pose a risk to your baby. 

The NHS website recommends maintaining ‘normal daily physical activity or exercise’ for as long as it feels comfortable.

However, as your pregnancy progresses, you may want to wind down the intensity of your exercise so as not to exhaust yourself. 

If you were not active before pregnancy, the NHS does not advise suddenly taking up ‘strenuous’ exercise. Its top tips for exercising while pregnant are:

Always warm up before exercising, and cool down afterwards

Try to keep active on a daily basis

Avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather 

Stay hydrated

If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified and knows that you’re pregnant 

You might like to try swimming because the water will support your increased weight 

Exercises that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls carry a risk of damage to your baby

Source: NHS

In April last year, just as she was gearing up to run a 100km race, Sophie learnt she was six weeks pregnant with her son Teddy.

‘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.’

The super-fit mother took part in the race and came sixth, finishing in just eight hours and 30 minutes, which was 19 minutes off her personal best. 

She said: ‘Doing it with one single pregnancy felt a lot easier than with twins.’

Six weeks later Sophie took part in a 50km race and finished first out of all female participants. 

Then, at 20 weeks pregnant, with the ‘the tiniest of bumps’, she took part in The Race to The Stones – a 100 km cross country race along Britain’s oldest footpath from Oxfordshire to Wiltshire.

Despite temperatures soaring above 20 degrees, Sophie finished in the top ten overall and was the second woman to cross the finishing line.

And in October last year, at 31 weeks pregnant, she completed the Virtual London Marathon, finishing in an impressive time of 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.

Although it was some way off her best marathon time of two hours and 48 minutes, Sophie 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 around.’

Sophie says running a marathon while pregnant is only a little bit different to preparing for a regular marathon.

‘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’,’ she said.

‘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 you’re used to. You’ll be okay and your baby will be too.’

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