The Orange County Marathon in Newport Beach this year will be hosted Sunday, May 5, with 20,000 participants. One runner is Signal Hill resident Jessica Buffington, 30, who will be participating in the half marathon while seven-months pregnant with her second child.
She began recreational running in college to boost her confidence and to acquire a better lifestyle. She said, at first, her biggest motivator was her own health and well-being.
“When I got into college and had no one to answer to, I took health and fitness into my own hands and started running from there,” she explained. “Cancer runs in my family, so that was really important to me, and it still is.”
She ran her first half marathon about four years ago at the request of her close friend who sought motivation from her. Since then, she continues to participate in marathons with her friend, whether Buffington is pregnant or not.
In 2011, Buffington signed up for the OC Half Marathon before she found out she was pregnant with her first son, Jackson. Although three months pregnant, she completed the run in 2 hours and 22 minutes. More recently, she participated in the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach with a time of 2 hours and 42 minutes. She was 17-weeks pregnant during that race and, although her time wasn’t what she had hoped for, she is proud of the achievement.
Buffington said she consulted her doctor, who gave the go-ahead for her to run in the race while pregnant, given her past running experience and health, and as long as she listens to her body and makes sure not to overexert herself.
“He isn’t worried at all,” Buffington said. “He knows that I listen to my body and remain active the entire time.”
Her doctor also said there aren’t a lot of risks in her case since she was a runner before she got pregnant, she said. Buffington added, however, that she always has to be careful of uneven ground, as balance becomes an issue while carrying weight differently.
“I also have to be careful of overheating,” she said. “This marathon is perfect for that because it starts at 6:15am. I’m not supposed to let my heart rate get above 140 beats per minute, however, I focus more on not becoming breathless. I’m able to hold a conversation. Other than that, because I have been active before and during, I am good to go.”
Not only is running while pregnant a huge goal for her, but it also helps with her pregnancy. She ran until she was eight-months pregnant with Jackson and taught a spin class until the day she gave birth to him.
“I think it helped with my labor,” she said. “I was only in labor for five hours, and, even though it was painful, it was really quick, and I recovered a lot quicker afterward. I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans within two weeks of having him, and I actually weighed 10 pounds less, nine months after having him. It also helped me to stay active and gave me a burst of energy.”
Her ideal goal in running marathons is to set a good example for her son, and she hopes that he will be inspired to live a life of health and motivation.
“Obesity is such an epidemic in this country, and children really look up their parents,” she said. “If I could portray a healthy image to him, then hopefully he’ll want to portray that image himself. I want him know that if you set goals, you can accomplish them and that you’re capable of a lot more than people think of you and you think of yourself.”
Aside from being an excellent “picture of health” for her children, Buffington said she has goals centered on timing and medals. She works to improve the timing in which she completes the marathon by training. She is working out six days a week for at least an hour, running and covering uphill terrain. She is especially excited to receive a “ginormous medal” that is awarded when the Orange County, Long Beach and Huntington Beach marathons are completed consecutively.
Buffington is also looking forward to showing support for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
“Me and my friend want to wear Boston hats,” she said. “[The incident] didn’t deter us or make us scared. It actually made us want to run it even more so because you can’t let something like that rule your life, and we want to show the support for those people who have lost their lives and the whole community of Boston. Obviously, there’s not a whole lot we can do from here, but running shows them that we all care and are thinking of them.”