Pregnancy and the Marathon

As I approach my due date (6 weeks!!!), I’ve begun thinking back to my son’s birth…trying to visualize what it will be like this time around.  It’s easy for me to remember the moments post labor & delivery and much harder to recall the period just before.  I vaguely remember what the contractions and pain felt like (even though I chose to go epidural-free) but can clearly imagine the moments when I first held my son.

The more I’m bringing these memories to the forefront of my mind, the more I’m realizing that pregnancy and childbirth are A LOT like running a marathon (at least for me!).

– There never is “the right time” to do either.  Work is hectic, there’s a ton of other time commitments,  financially you don’t feel ready…the list goes on and on.  While having a child is much more of a long-term commitment, you realize that there comes a point where you just have to take the plunge and go for it.  And as my mom always says…everything will work out in the end.

– You finally become part of “the club”.  Before I ran my first marathon, I remember feeling like I didn’t belong when friends would sit around and talk about their marathon experiences.  I wanted to participate in the conversation (they certainly weren’t excluding me) but I had no real-life experience to share, so I always felt like an outsider.  Pregnancy, and even more so, parenting, has a similar club.  Now that I’m a mom, I find that my conversations with other moms (or dads) revolve almost exclusively around parenting topics – breast-feeding, sleep schedules, tantrums, etc.

– You plan to never have/do another one.  You probably are familiar with this scene.  The last few miles of a marathon start to get really tough.  As you cross the finish line, you swear off EVER running another marathon. The only thing on your mind at the moment is the pain you are in.  But then something happens…as time goes on, the painful memories are eclipsed by the sweet memory of accomplishing something amazing -> of crossing that finish line.  And before you know it, you sign up for another marathon.

Pregnancy and childbirth are similar.  After giving birth to my son, I had told my husband that I couldn’t imagine going through all that again – let alone with no epidural.  Now, as I’m approaching d-day, I am actually excited and looking forward to going through the experience again and fully intend to (attempt to) not use any pain medication to get me through it.

Few miles left of my 2nd marathon (first time I BQ'd) - a low point in the race

– You can break them both into three different segments. The first ten miles of a marathon are like the first trimester – you often feel sluggish, out of sorts, maybe your heart rate is elevated, you question every ache or pain you feel and wonder how you will be able to run another 20 miles / go another 30-35 weeks.  The second ten miles arrive and you hit your groove – you settle into a comfortable pace, everything feels right, and you experience the runner’s high.  Miles 11-20 are like the second trimester, often called the honeymoon stage of pregnancy. You have your energy back, your belly and baby are growing but are still small enough to allow you to do most daily activities, and you finally have that pregnancy glow.  Then you hit the home stretch – the last 6.2 miles of the marathon and the last trimester.  One of my favorite quotes is from Runner’s World Guide to Running & Pregnancy:

“The hardest part, the real test of my strength, lay ahead in those last 6.2 miles. And he was right.  So goes it with the last trimester of pregnancy…”

Seeing the 2009 Boston Marathon Finish Line

Seeing the finish line of pregnancy #1 - heading to hospital after 6 hours of contractions at home.

Some miles are really tough and you reach the point where you just want it all to be over. You imagine what it will feel like to sit down, stretch and relax.  So you keep pushing to get to that finish line.  The third trimester is so similar.  Some days are uncomfortable, the last few weeks are extremely uncomfortable, and you imagine what it will feel like to not have a watermelon in your belly anymore.  You get through each day knowing that your finish line is approaching.

– The journey is a roller coaster. Training for a marathon requires dedication, time, and lots of sweat.  There are days/weeks where everything is going as planned…but there are also periods in every training cycle when you question your goals (whether it be to finish, run a certain time, or come in a certain place), when you are exhausted, or when things don’t work out as planned (skipping important workouts, having an injury, etc).  It’s very similar to pregnancy.  There are many days you feel great and are excited about your major life change.  But it’s common to have those days where you question your ability to be a “good” mom, worry about every little detail, or even doubt your decision to create a life.

– Take it one week/mile at a time. You can’t view the marathon as 26 miles.  I’ve never stepped up to the start line and thought “I have to run 26 miles at x:xx pace”.  It’s too much for me to mentally grasp and would psych me out if I did.  Instead, I tell myself to get through one mile at a time at my goal pace.  If I focus on just ONE mile, it seems much more manageable.  I’ve learned to view pregnancy in the same way.  I focus on one week at a time without concerning myself about how much further I need to go.

– Nothing will ever prepare you for what you feel when you reach the end. I broke down repeatedly during the last few miles of my first marathon. I knew I would get to the finish line and the excitement and happiness began taking over as I approached the end.  Crossing the finish line the first time – and knowing I was officially a marathoner – was one of the proudest moments in my running career.  I was not prepared, emotionally, for what I experienced.  Childbirth – and the moment I officially became a mom – was similar (but in all honesty, way better!).  Although the period leading up to delivery was tough, I will never be able to fully describe what it was like the moment my son was born.

My finish line!

Has pregnancy and/or childbirth resembled a marathon to you?  

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    27 thoughts on “Pregnancy and the Marathon

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    3. It was weird because I was pregnant, throughout that so it was weird being a pregnant witch. I was in a really bad mood but luckily, because I sleep with the director, he just sort of scheduled me so I only had to do it two nights.

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    5. Pregnancy absolutely resembled childbirth for me, that was my first comparison after my first marathon. The pain is so bad, but it is quickly forgotten with the joy that comes after.
      Robin recently posted..My 5 Hour Training DayMy Profile

    6. I just want to say first that I just found your blog and love it. Thanks for sharing your insights with other like-minded folks.

      Reading this post was so interesting to me because I’ve recently been comparing pregnancy to marathon training. I’m currently 33 weeks pregnant with twin girls and have equated this pregnancy with training and the first several months after birth as the actual race. With about 5 weeks to go in this pregnancy I am feeling the same nervous energy that I have before a race. That feeling of knowing it will be extremely difficult and painful but just wanting to get started because you know the rewards will be so great.

      I look forward to following your blog and hopefully lacing up our running shoes again in the months to come. Best wishes!

    7. Wow. This totally hit home for me for very very obvious reason. BUT it also struck home on the becoming a mom front (the less obvious of the two reasons!) because I DO struggle with when the right time is to start a family or IF there ever will be a right time, or even if I’m cut out to be a mom. By comparing it to marathon training, you totally made both seem so doable to me!! haha you are a genius!!
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    8. What a beautiful and oh so true post! Pregnancy was definitely a marathon to me and I loved that I enjoyed the journey as much as I did the finish line- which is what I can say about my first marathon as well. Good luck as you head towards the end of your pregnancy!
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    9. This post came at the perfect time! I just hit 28 weeks with my first pregnancy and all of a sudden I feel unconfortable and like I need to start slowing down a little bit…exactly how I felt towards the end of my first marathon. Not knowing what to expect is really hard for me and I find myself wondering how on earth I’m going to make it through these next 12 weeks. I very clearly remember the last miles of the marathon thinking, how did I think I could really get through this?!? But I did, and I know I’ll get through these next 12 weeks too. I’ll keep chugging along, one foot in front of the other :)
      Great post Michele!

    10. So true! There is NEVER a right time to do either, you just either do it or don’t. I like the idea of taking one week at a time as well. Sure, I follow a running schedule, but I no longer look far ahead in the schedule. I just look at the week I’m doing and only think of it. I kind of say now, no biggie, just go out and run. Quit thinking about it all too much! :)
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    11. You’re completely hitting the nail on the head! They are SO similar. I remember when I had my son (my first) I commented to my midwife that childbirth was just like doing an IronMan (except even more painful).

      I did my first birth sans epidural also–I was really committed to it. When I got into hard labor for number two, though, I caved! I just didn’t have the commitment that time around and didn’t want to go through the pain again.
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    12. Though I’ve never run a FULL marathon, I can relate my 1/2 marathon experience with pregnancy/child birth. For me, I know I can run, I know I can run the distance – I’ve done it before. And now the same goes for this pregnancy. I know I can do it and at least have 1 experience behind me.
      I agree with all your thoughts, I am at the one week at a time phase and trying to enjoy every moment, even the painful ones.
      Anna @ Piper’s Run recently posted..Things I am loving at 23 weeks pregnantMy Profile

    13. So true Michelle, Isn’t funny how so many things in life are like running? I have always said that running is my teacher. I recently did a post about Marriage being like a Marathon. Glad that you are near the end… no better feeling than the one when you cross the finish line. Bet you can’t wait to welcome #nycrunningbaby to the world! xo
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