Thursday, April 14, 2016

Running a Marathon VS Having a Baby

When I got pregnant, I started hearing that childbirth was comparable to running a marathon, both physically and emotionally. I actually read a lot of articles and blog posts about it and it intrigued me. It also frightened me a bit because despite running numerous half marathons, my one and only marathon experience was not all that great. 

And now having done both (marathon in Jan 2015, Baby in Feb 2016), I thought it'd do a little comparison. 


Let's start from the beginning...

Registering for the Big Event
In both cases, I voluntarily signed up. Not entirely sure what allusions of grandeur were going through my mind when I signed up for the marathon, but I was well aware of what I was getting into when I got pregnant. ;) In both cases, I had the foresight to also sign up some support in the form of my husband. He wasn't totally on board for the marathon, but he was all for the baby. 

Training is a crucial part of preparing for both big events. It's the time to learn and prepare as much as you can, so make the most of the time! Coincidentally, I had about 9 months to prepare for both the marathon and the baby. 

Let's talk marathon training. Ideally, you'd prepare a training program that you follow religiously, ramping up in mileage slowly to prepare you for that 26.2 miles. I said, ideally. That totally did not happen for me. Most plans train up to at least 20 miles with long runs in 2 mile increments on the weeks prior. Let's take a look at how my training went: 

8 miles- 20 weeks prior
9 miles- 11 weeks prior
13 miles- 9 weeks prior (Wine & Dine Half Marathon)
13 miles- 8 weeks prior (Avengers Half Marathon)
11 miles- 5 weeks prior
18 miles- 3 weeks prior

Yup, only one run over a half marathon distance. I got in short runs of just a few miles 2-3 times per week in addition to those longer runs, but this is not good marathon training. This kind of bare bones training may get you through the marathon, but it is by no means a path to making the race great.

Along my 18 mile training run

Jumping to childbirth training- I'm not entirely sure there is any kind of training you can really do to simulate childbirth. There is a ton of literature you can read, friends who will share their experiences, exercises you can do to prepare you, but nothing is going to fully prepare you for it. It's all more mental prep than going through the motions.

Staying fit by running the Disneyland 10k @ 16 weeks pregnant

My prep consisted of trying to stay in shape and being mentally prepared. I ran one race during the pregnancy- the Disneyland 10k. I continued to jog until about 26 weeks and then stayed consistent with prenatal yoga and the elliptical. I didn't gain a ton of weight, about 25 pounds, which also helped.

Through out both "training" experiences, I had similar feelings. At the beginning, I had a sense of excitement and I could eat more food (yay!). I did all that I could to stick to a good health/fitness routine. By the end, I was just ready and counting down the days for the big event. I was nervous in both cases and had a "ready or not here I come" mentality.

Phases of the Marathon/Labor

I like to think of gathering in the corrals at the start of the race as the start of labor. There's excitement in the air, the adrenaline is flowing, and all thoughts lead to "let's get this party started!"

Early labor is like miles 1-17 of the marathon. It lasts a long time, but you're keeping a good pace and going with the flow. There's an "I can totally do this" mentality. Things aren't too difficult yet, but it's getting increasingly harder. You may even decide to stop for a few photo ops. ;) Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, I sort of skipped this phase. Labor started hard and fast, no leisurely intro for me.

All smiles at the halfway point of the marathon. Things were still fun at this point. It helped that we rode a roller coaster. ;)

Hard contractions are like miles 18-24: this is when sh*t hits the fan. You start to question your sanity and wonder why anyone would willingly put themselves through this. The only thing that carries you on is putting one foot (or breath) in front of the other. You'll probably start to snap at your support person. I had been awake for almost 30 hours at this point and lack of sleep really took its toll. (Sorry hubby. I know you had the unfortunate experience of being my support person through both events.)

I may look like I'm resting, but I was definitely questioning if I could make it through labor.

During the marathon, I remember very distinctly running through what felt like the never ending maze of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex thinking that this was the end of the marathon for me. Just as in labor, my husband encouraged me to continue and we pressed onward.

Almost there!

The push to the end is very similar in both cases. You're in tons of pain, exhausted, you still have thoughts of giving up, but you also have hope! You know the end is SO close, you can see it! You push through those last moments of pain and cross that finish line... 

and the end result is wonderful. There is this overwhelming feeling of joy. Runners high, if you will.

First photo as a family

There's also a sense of relief and all that pain just melts away. At least for the next 15 minutes or so. Then your body realizes what it just went through and the aches and pain begins. ;) 

In both cases, you'll be famished after and want to eat everything. Sadly, there is no celebratory beer after you have the baby. :(

A tasty "recovery" meal at WDW.

Do we really need to compare the two? Unless you had some horrid injury, recovery from childbirth is definitely harder. With the marathon, you can sleep it off and be back to normal in a matter of days. After labor, there is no sleep, your body it healing, and you've got this tiny human that needs your attention 24/7. Literally. I'm also holding the baby as I type this. ;)

So which would I rather go through?

At this point, I'm not entirely sure. Yes, having a baby was painful (I opted for minimal IV drugs, so I guess it could have been different), but it wasn't that bad. There were moments that I doubted I could do it, but staying focused on the end goal really helped. As for the marathon, I still remember the 7 hours of running torture. In my opinion, the marathon is more mentally difficult, probably because you always have the option of dropping out of the race. Obviously not an option with having a baby. ;)

No medal, but he's pretty cute.

All in all, I expect to go through both again. I'd love to run another marathon (I promise to train better next time) and I hope we're blessed with another baby. But in a few years. The newborn weeks are proving harder than both child birth and the marathon. ;)

What do you think? Is running a marathon harder than having a baby?


  1. What a great post! I too was thinking you can always drop out of the marathon or at least take it at your own pace, things that you can not do with the baby!

    1. Thanks! So far the majority of responses say that a marathon is harder. :)

  2. Haha! I love this one. I've had 5 babies and 1 marathon. I think I'd have another kid before another race. lol

  3. This is too funny! My Natural Childbirth class instructor told us that childbirth was just like running a marathon - I had to tell her that training for and running a marathon is FUN to me...childbirth is NOT! Haha! Ultimately though, the reward is so sweet!! :)