How I gave birth to my second marathon

DSC04555“This your first marathon?” I ask the girl to my right.

“This is my first and my last,” she replies as we pass mile marker 7.

“You say that…” my running partner and I both respond together, and then smile at each other.

Others in the pace group start to chime in, “You’ll forget all about the pain… you’re going to look back and only remember the good things… it’s going to be so amazing when you cross the finish line… you’ll run another one… just wait.”

I laugh a little to myself. It really IS so much like having a baby, med-free.

During labor and delivery with Kendall, I couldn’t help but constantly compare my mental state of mind and the level of pain I was experiencing with what it felt like to run and finish my first marathon two and a half years earlier. It was, in fact, the most painful, most mentally and physically challenging thing I’d ever been through up to that point. It was the biggest motivator for me, facing down the wretched,razor lined, semi-truck through the spine gremlin, a.k.a. giving birth to an 8.11 lb anterior facing baby with no epidural. “If I can run a marathon, I can do this,” I repeated to myself over and over.

As I ran my second marathon yesterday (around Dallas’ White Rock Lake), I kept myself slightly amused, entertained and intrigued by turning the tables and comparing the strength it took to get through a med-free delivery to surviving another 26.2 mile race. “I can do this. I had a baby with no epidural,” I reminded myself often.

(Miles 1-7/signs of early labor)

In the beginning, you’re a ball of nerves. Do I eat? Do I not eat? What do I eat? Will I throw it up? You’re planning in your head. You’re very concerned about potty breaks and getting everything out. Making lists, checking off milestones, very conscious of your body. What was that? Why does that hurt? I hope that goes away. You haven’t settled into your pace. You’re jittery. You’re mind is everywhere. You smile. A lot. You’re so excited about the journey you just started. You may even break out the camera and take pictures. You have the energy for such things right now. You even look good. You have an outfit on that matches because you think that matters right now.

(Miles 8-15/still cooling it at home)

Then you start to find your groove. Things loosen up. Your breathing becomes steady, but you’re not really having to focus on it yet. You are very interested in what your watch tells you. You’re cross referencing it’s readout with where you should be at nearly every step. You’re feeling good. Really good. Sure, it’s a little painful, but the optimism is shining through.

(Miles 16- 19/ starting to think a trip to L&D or a visit from the midwife is in your near future)

You get a little further along and things start to ache a little more. Those twinges and tweaks become sharp aches and cramps. You have to get serious now. You have to focus. You’re lighthearted conversations die out. You are mostly silent. You are paying a lot more attention to your breathing. You’re also starting to wonder what you signed yourself up for, but you don’t even allow yourself to think that you might not be able to finish what you started. You know that’s a very risky mental path of self doubt to go down.

(Miles 20-22/This. Is. Serious.)

The pain is bad. It’s really bad. You are hurting in places you’d never even given thought to before. You’re trying so hard to stay positive. The people around you make all the difference. The way they can read you and cheer you on pushes you through. You really crave oranges right now. Oranges are amazing. You’re making weird noises and you don’t care who hears you. You want to believe that you can do this, but if ONE MORE person tells you you’re “ALMOST THERE!” you just might kick their ass. This is the hardest you’ve ever worked in your life, and you know it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. You also cuss. A lot. You probably offend some people. You don’t give a shit. Every thing becomes a blur and your sense of time is completely warped.

(Miles 23-25/This is TRANSITION)

WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING???!!! NO REALLY, WHAT THE FUCK??? Repeat x 1,000. You can’t get emotional because then you can’t breathe and breathing is SO IMPORTANT right now. As people on the outside try to motivate you, you may think, “Please, people, stop making me want to cry with all your inspirational bullshit because I really need to FUCKING BREATHE.” And then you just get mad. You’re just a mad person, and you think people are lying to you. You think they are just telling you things like, “it’s almost over” just to get you to keep going on this never ending ride through hell forever and ever. You hate them. You tell them that, even if just under your very labored breath. YOU ARE NEVER DOING THIS EVER AGAIN!!

(Miles 25-26.2- PUSH)

Quite frankly, you don’t care what comes out of you right now. You might shit yourself, and you’re okay with that. You will not look good for pictures. You are so DONE with all this. DONE. Screw listening to your body. You don’t care what you rip or tear in the process, you want to be finished, and you’re going to push yourself so far beyond your limits until you get there. You know the only way to feel better, to rest, to stop, is to push because stopping before the finish is not an option.

People are cheering you on. It’s fueling you. You finally allow yourself to think just how amazing it will be when that award is in your hands. You want it so badly. You find every last ounce of energy in your body and you give it all you’ve got. You feel a wave of excitement pass over you and you just go with it. You don’t remember exactly how you get there, but you finish. And then you collapse… and then you cry. It’s an ugly cry, but it’s a beautiful moment. And they put it in your hands… and you are so amazed… so proud… and it was all worth it.

BUT that still doesn’t mean you are EVER DOING THIS AGAIN. You would give just about anything for an epidural now that it’s over.

You will feel like you were steamrolled for a while. You won’t dare think of doing this again for quite some time. You will be happy enough with your first and only experience.

And then, one day in the distant future, you will look at what you worked so hard for, you will remember the pride, the joy, the amazing reward. You will think to yourself, “Well, maybe just one more…”


Kendall is nearly 19 and a half months old, and he thinks our finisher medals are pretty awesome.

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  1. I just loved the part about the outfit matching and the cussing πŸ™‚ Great analogy! I’m also glad I’m not the only one who gets PISSED when people cheer me on at a bad time!

    Congrats on your wonderful accomplishment(s)!! πŸ™‚

    • Sam, at one point, on our way up a hill around mile 19, I turned to the girl to my left and said, “I really find it helps if you just cuss all the way up the hill.” She looked at me and said, “Really? I don’t think so.” Then moved away from me. Oops. I continued to drop the f-bomb repeatedly for the rest of the race.

  2. Best line ever: “You don’t care what you rip or tear in the process, you want to be finished, and you’re going to push yourself so far beyond your limits until you get there.”

    I ran my first marathon about 10 months before my 40-hr med-free birth and you are so on the money with this! I really think the marathon, more than my doula or hypnobirthing or prenatal yoga or whatever, made my natural birth possible. And I think it’s hilarious that the birth experience might make the next marathon possible!

  3. Jill, you ROCK!! What a great comparison. I only wish I would have had the opportunity to try natural birth. My daughter’s heart rate dropped so fast that they had to put me under and do an emergency c-section. I guess I could always run a marathon πŸ™‚

  4. And this is why I will never run marathons. I remember all the bad stuff about labor, still don’t think it was worth it, and am dreading doing it again in 20 or so weeks. Reading this post made all the awful memories resurface again, and kinda made me feel like vomiting. Or having a panic attack.

    Cheers to you for having the testicular fortitude to make it through.

  5. Well, now that I have read this I can see the comparison but still I have no intention of running a marathon. Nope. No desire. πŸ™‚ But yeah the birth thing I am sort of feeling like I might do that again one day (In the very far future). Now is SO not the time for me to get pregnant but ….. well, yeah I could see wanting to do it again someday.

    COngratulations on your accomplishment(s). Be very proud of yourself – not everyone can do it.

  6. I thought for sure you were going to announce that you’re pregnant at the end of this post and show us the stick you peed on! πŸ™‚

    You should be very proud of both your accomplishments! I had a natural birth with my daughter and can totally relate it to this post of your running a marathon. It’s incredible how close the emotions and thoughts seem to be.

    Way to go!

  7. Since my first two “marathons” blew out my bladder, I will never attempt a marathon. Unless they have a diaper station every 2 miles, then I’m totally in.

    • Oof, sorry to hear that πŸ™ I have to say, if they can figure out a way to rig marathon diapers, I’m all over it. Those port-a-potties are NASTY.

  8. I have to ditto the previous commenter… I totally thought you were going to announce that you were pregnant at the end of this post!

    I have only run a half-marathon, but I definitely compare med-free childbirth to learning to run long distances. Your descriptions of the thought process are spot-on!

  9. Thanks everyone! I’m just very happy to have this crossed off my To Do list now. I can focus on other things. I just wish you all knew how I am SO not the person who anyone ever thought would run marathons. I quit cross country in Jr. High after the 1st mile of my first 3 mile race. I definitely don’t consider myself to be “tough”, but I’ve got determination, I guess, and I love to prove myself wrong. I really feel like if I can do it, anyone can, but I get that not everyone is that crazy or wants to πŸ˜‰

    Oh, and you all are crazy thinking I would be pregnant. I can not imagine how miserable it would be to train for and run a marathon while pregnant. No way.

  10. 1) I think you’re a rock star. The no-epidural thing and the marathon thing totally blows my mind, because,

    2) There is no freaking way I could ever do either of those things. Ever. I ride the MS150 every year but I can’t imagine actually RUNNING for 26 miles. I can barely run two miles. And birth? Um, AHHH!

  11. Thanks, Jill. You now have me convinced that I could run a 26 mile race. Never mind the fact I’m an asthmatic. πŸ™‚ Oh, and the fact (please don’t kill me) my labor was only 3 hours long. I was in transition the minute my first contraction hit.

    I think I’ll leave the marathons to you & I’ll just stick to birthin’ babies. πŸ˜€

    Anyway, great job! Way to go!

  12. I love this comparison. I ran a marathon the year before I got pregnant. When I look back on the marathon it is nothing but great thoughts! I remember the bands playing, the people cheering and the beautiful scenery of Richmond, VA.
    When I decided to have a natural birth, that is exactly what my husband said, “I know you can do it, you ran a marathon!”
    I think it’s true. If I hade enough strength to run 26.2 mile, then what’s labor?
    Looking back on my labor is the same way, I remember the soft soothing music I played, the comforting nurse, midwife and doula I had, the warm comfortable tub, and a beautiful baby. I tell everyone it was so easy, and they can do it to. It’s definitely easy to forget the pain!!

    Congrats on the marathon by the way! Someday I’ll do another one, I’m sure!

  13. I am feeling inspired! I have long dreamed of doing a full marathon (ran a 1/2 in college), but I do need to find a running partner because I keep falling out of training every winter (and we have very mild winters here). And I am determined that my next child will be a natural birth because I am still disappointed that 7 months ago I had an unplanned c-section (even though the result of a beautiful and healthy boy was worth it). The birth will have to wait a while (years?), but I’m going to get on the ball with running!

  14. This totally had me cracking up! I even read it to my DH. We did our first 5k (I told you this already) on Saturday and we started training for a half marathon yesterday. We are nuts.

  15. Congrats to you!
    As a labor and delivery RN I often compare labor with a marathon. In fact a sentence I say A LOT goes something like this, “You need to drink something with a little substance in it. Yeah, like this juice or that gatorade. It’s like running a marathon, you wouldn’t run one and not sip on a beverage right.”

    • Thanks! We’re considering the half… I’m just not sure I want to commit just yet πŸ™‚ I’m sort of over running right now.

      That’s amazing that she’s done five!

  16. As a Mom that has both experienced a marathon and the natural unmedicated birth of two 9 lbs babies I can totally relate to this post. I love it, it takes a great mental strength to do boths things. Remember “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” right??? Congrats on finishing what an accomplishment!

    • Thanks, Jackie! I absolutely agree. I was muttering those words to myself nearly the whole run. Also happens to be one of my favorite Kanye songs πŸ˜‰ Congrats to you, too!

  17. Yes! This is perfect!! I am also a marathon runner and had natural child birth. I have made this same “labor/marathon” analogy! I was just telling a running friend last week that she’d be fine with natural labor- “its like running a marathon. It hurts, it sucks, but totally worth it in the end.” I didn’t tell her that during my 12 hour labor I realized I could have ran two marathons in less time!

    My parenting mantra is the same as my running mantra; keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    Thanks for the laughs πŸ™‚

  18. And this is why I will never run a marthon OR have a baby without an epi, lol.

    Good for you hon … I am proud of and for you πŸ™‚

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