Monday, October 06, 2008

Marathon vs. Childbirth

The always fabulous Marcy is gearing up for her first marathon and poses the eternal question:

Does running a marathon hurt as much as childbirth?


It's a comparison I've encountered more than once. And seeing as how I've done both things, I feel qualified to tackle this one.

Preparation: No doubt about it, training for a marathon can be a bitch. Track workouts, tempo runs, and long runs can create a host of pain, from cramping, sore knees, shin splints, sunburn, blisters, missing toenails, and chafing. You're out in all kinds of weather, dragging yourself out of bed at ridiculous times of day. On the other hand, being pregnant isn't exactly a picnic, either. There's the first trimester, which was marked for me as three months of alternating dry heaves and crushing fatigue. I felt like absolute hell, but I didn't look pregnant yet, so I was just some crazy chick gagging at the scent of anti-bacterial soap. Then, in the second trimester, all of a sudden none of my clothes fit me, I was constantly kicked in the ribs by a freakishly strong baby, and to add insult to injury, developed stretch marks on just about every part of my body. But that was just a warm-up for the third trimester, in which I had restless leg syndrome, pain in my sciatic nerve, a constant pressure on my tailbone, a sore lower back, and well hello, my old friend fatigue! I'd love to sleep, but this kid keeps squirming around all night long. And if there was any other doubt, marathon training takes 18 weeks, pregnancy takes 40. Worse: Childbirth

Hero Factor Compare and contrast: "Wow, a marathon! I could never do that!" versus, "Oh, you're planning on an epidural? Well, I had an unmedicated water birth surrounded by three generations of women in my family. But I'm sure that will be nice for you." Worse: Childbirth

Anticipation: The weeks leading up to a marathon are tough. You're stressed out, poring over the course map, worrying about the weather, wondering about what to wear, thinking you might not be able to finish. But the weeks leading up to having a baby include people telling you how gigantic you are (thanks), feeling like hell, and realizing that there is absolutely no way you can back out of this ridiculous endeavor. Plus, you know exactly when your marathon is going to start, so at least you can be prepared. That baby will show up whenever he damned well feels like it. Worse: Childbirth

Pain: During my worst ever pain in a marathon, I felt uncomfortable to the point where I needed a walk break. During my worst ever pain in childbirth, I curled up into a tiny ball in bed, silently turning purple until it was over, unable to walk or talk. Sure, you can get drugs for the childbirth, and let me tell you, they work. But my longest marathon was less than five hours. In contrast, I started having labor pains on December 22, only to have the actual child on December 24. Worse: Childbirth

Recovery: I bounced back from both the marathons and the childbirth pretty equally. After the marathons, I took Advil for a couple of days, took some time off from running, and was fine. The baby-having was a little more dramatic, since I had a C-section. On Christmas of 2004, I was unable to move my legs for much of the day, and the pain I experienced the first time I tried to walk to the bathroom was probably the worst I have ever experienced. But by the next day, I was feeling pretty good, to the point where I never bothered to fill my prescription for pain meds. Worse: Childbirth, but only slightly

Swag Because I have a fabulous husband, I score jewelry after both giving birth and finishing marathons, so it's a draw there, provided you were smart enough to marry a good guy. But other than that? Finisher's medal vs. beautiful new baby? Worse: Marathon, easily.

So, there you go - having a baby is way more painful than running a silly little marathon. Marcy's got two kids, so homegirl has nothing to worry about. And men, you can forgive us if we smile a bit indulgently when you talk about how much it hurt when you bonked.

12 comments:

Marcy said...

ROFLMAO Betsy! HAHAHAHAHHAHAA Awesome post!! OMG I feel for you. Did they make you push first for awhile and then decide "Ehhhhh this isn't going to work, we'll do a C-section?" I think that's one of the worst things you could make a woman do. Getting the worst of both worlds.

Having the "pleasure" of experiencing both drugged and non drugged births, I will have to find out how it fares against the marathon. I have a feeling I will tend to agree with your conclusions LOL

newsjunkie said...

Yet another reason I will stick to marathons. ;)

Mazurka said...

I've been contemplating this alternative for a while...think I'll run Grandma's Marathon up in Duluth next year.

M*J*C said...

That's awesome! I'm emailing this link to my friend that just had her 3rd baby and keeps saying "I can't believe you're doing a marathon"!

Kent said...

Sorry, the Hero worship in total is far worse with marathon side. My wife and I am still reaping benefits 14 years on our first, and if someone else remembers my DM Marathon 13 years I will be utterly surprised. Then again my investment of pain was much less momentous.

Lisa said...

Oh thank you for this! I loved it. I was told by someone that the three hours of pushing I did with my first baby was equivalent to running a marathon. I tried to remember that at mile 19 when I was in some serious pain. I knew that my little four-year-old "finisher's medal" would be waiting for me at the finish line with a big hug!

And after my first almost-10-pound baby, I have to say recovering from a marathon was easier.

great post!

tfh said...

This made me think about an article about Paula Radcliffe that was in RW awhile back-- her child's birth was excruciating. It was actually discouraging because I was hoping somehow the experience of running marathons would make childbirth easier in comparison, but it sounds like it only works the other way around.

Julianne said...

LOL. This is one the best comparisons on child birth vs marathon... EVER!! I loved your approach on this post!

Roisin said...

Thank you for once again reminding me why I never want to have children. Ever.

Laura said...

That's an amazing post, but damn it, I wanted kids and now I'm scared :( Marathons are hard enough!

Marlene said...

This post is hysterical! Thank you for re-affirming my decision not to have children yet...

Lama Mama said...

Why am I just now finding out about your blog?? Hysterical, just like you. Your post helped me decide: I will neither run a marathon nor have another child.

My blog is www.denver4.blogspot.com

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