Posted by: Karen | July 23, 2006

Giving Birth to a Marathon

Love those memories...The experiences of giving birth and running a first marathon have a lot in common. Both start with a wave of overwhelming enthusiasm and for reasons that are usually intimately personal. The conception of a training plan or baby can be a lot of fun, but in most cases a commitment to following it through is best for the ultimate outcome. Some folks take years of life-orchestration to actually start the process in motion, and others find themselves signed up for it on a whim.

Pregnancy, like long distance training, often involves unexpected physical changes to deal with – skin conditions, sore and swelling body parts, tiredness, changing body shape, walking funny. Both can induce changes in dietary, digestive and sleep habits. Both situations often involve a persistent desire to know where the bathrooms are.

You can take birth preparation classes or join a marathon clinic, read all the books, do all the exercises, pack your necessities, time the drive down to the start line/hospital, and still not really know how you’re going to handle the actual event. You just prepare as best as you can for all of the possible variables that can occur, and try not to worry about any worst case scenarios.

The Big Day comes unavoidably, whether you’re ready or not. Just before and during the event you might deal with intense feelings; eagerness, fear, pride, fatigue, pain, joy. You produce bodily fluids that you never see broadcast in the Olympics or on sit coms. It takes a lot longer and it feels a lot harder than it seems to on t.v., too.

After the big climactic finish you’re left with a body which needs care you never anticipated in recovering, whether your coaches told you about it or not. Basic needs, like food, water and comfort become very, very important. Ask sincerely of any parents or marathoners about their birth or race experience and you’ve got quite a conversation going. If there are photos handy, you’ll see them. Mementoes like hospital bracelets and race bibs are lovingly archived in much the same manner.

Photo courtesy of Loping Loubob LindaI’m not really sure how to continue the analogy after that. There is the motivation of the post-marathon runner, which must be gently cared for and possibly aimed towards another fitness goal. That can be easier for some than others. After birth, there is MORE than one body to nurture. The one that’s not yours can still give you pain and relief, cuddles and grief for much longer than it takes a runner to store the race medal. Either way, the experience adds a new, indelible definition to who you are, be it “Marathoner” or “Parent”.   



  1. Well said! Now does this mean you are trying for another baby or another marathon, hmmm??

  2. That’s a cool analogy. I’ll never be pregnant but I may train for 9 months for a marathon. I suppose that’s a possibility. Take care Karen.

  3. well put. I especially like the bodily fluids not seen on tv part!

  4. […] She just ran her first marathon. Like many things in life, distance gives you more perspective and as the weeks past her marathon fade into a month she is more waxing rhapsotic on her marathon experience and less, oh my god I did it. This post was particularly poignant and made me say, that’s true. Of course I’ve never run a marathon… what do I know. […]

  5. heyyy,, thats cool,, I have become a parent three times,, and to tell you the truth,, I really think training for a marathon would be harder!! I mean, I didnt have to go through labor practice for four hours preparing for the big event,, it just hits ya and shocks the heck out of you. lol, you already felt the pain when you do your practice runs…. Just my theory,, your special being a marathon finisher.!!!

  6. Karen – congratulations on your marathon finish! I’ve been out of town and didn’t realize you had already done it. Excellent job. I love the post-race pics.

    I’ve seen this a lot with female marathoners who have children – they’re much less inclined to whine or complain about various aches and pains, and just seem to have a natural toughness that says they’ve been through this kind of fire before. Now you’re a part of their club.

  7. awesome post. your friend Dawn lead me to it. you put it all much better than I did here – congrats on your first marathon finish and parenthood!


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