“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.