If you listen to the baby books and mommy runners, they'll have you believe that running a marathon makes childbirth seem like a walk in the park.
I respectfully disagree. Scratch that. I don't respectfully disagree - I vehemently disagree. So here's why I think childbirth is tougher than running a marathon...
With my first child I went into the hospital a week after my due date to be induced. (LIE #1 - Runners tend to give birth early). I had been walking around for 2.5 weeks 4cm dilated. All the nurses and the doctor said I was going to have a short labor since I was already so far along (LIE #2).
I got hooked up to the pitocin, got my epidural and put my feet up for what was supposed to be a short and uneventful birth.
The first major difference between childbirth and running a marathon is nutrition. During childbirth all you get is water and popsicles (and not even the good juice ones - they are the cheap ones that taste like pure sugar). I would never imagine trying to run a marathon without proper fuel (Gu, Gatorade Endurance, etc). My body is conditioned to take in the proper carb/protein/water balance during extended physical exertion and it definitely rebelled from lack of proper nutrition. I never thought I would see the day when I would kill someone for a packet of Strawberry-Banana PowerGel.
So the hours passed (S-L-O-W-L-Y), my hunger grew insatiable, and I grew very impatient to meet the creature that had been mooching off me for 9 months. What was supposed to be a short labor, drug on and on. It felt like I was running a race where you didn't know the race distance. I would just have to keep running and running indefinitely until someone yelled “Stop!”. How do you pace your self for something like that? Answer: You don't. Instead you just whine to your husband, whine to the nurses, whine to the doctor, and whine to the cleaning lady who comes by to empty the trash.
Finally sometime that evening the doctor said the magic words I've been waiting all day to hear: "It's time to push". I would equate hearing those words to seeing the 25 mile sign in a marathon. You've come along way and you realize for the first time that you might actually finish this thing.
And just like the last 1.2 miles can eat you up and destroy both your body and spirit, so can the actually delivery portion of childbirth. I pushed. I pulled. I twisted. I turned. I cried. I ran out of epidural (which I highly do not recommend). I gave up. I rallied myself. I gave up again (Would it be easier if we took the baby out of my nostril?). I dug deep into my reserves.
It got ugly (it's never good when you look up and see a dozen doctors and nurses in your delivery room) but in the end I got a sweet finisher's medal - a little boy.
Now, back to my initial assertion that marathon running is easier than childbirth. Let's look each element of marathoning/childbirth separately...
- Nutrition: Marathon is easier (No specially blended power supplements to aid you during childbirth)
- Anticipation: Marathon is easier - at least you know how long it's going to be.
- Pain: Childbirth is easier. One word - epidural. They should hand those out at races around the 21 mile mark. The finisher’s area would definitely be less grim if everyone was hopped up on pain meds…
- Award: Childbirth is better. It's tough to compete with a long sleeve technical tee, but creating a human being takes the cake.
So, we have a 2-2 tie. For the tiebreaker, we will compare my marathon PR with how long it took me to deliver a baby (the actual birthing part - not the all day labor)...
- Marathon PR: 3:27
- Baby Delivery PR: 3:45
Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner! I could have run a marathon, got a finisher’s medal draped over my head, gave back my ChampionChip, ate a banana, washed it down with lemon-lime Gatorade and cozied up with a space blanket in the time in took me to deliver a baby.
The evidence speaks for itself my friends, marathon running is easier than childbirth.