Pregnancy Myth Busted: It’s Not Like Running a Marathon, It’s Harder


pregnancy myth marathonIt’s marathon time in Des Moines and many motivated individuals are getting ready for the main event, a 26.2-mile course featuring some of the city’s finest fall scenery. A year ago, I was one of these people prepping for my first – and decidedly last – marathon race.

This year, I’m prepping for a different main event, the birth of baby #3, due nearly a year to the day of the 2017 marathon. With the similarity of these timelines, it’s been easy to examine the frequently shared and well-intended analogy that pregnancy is like training for a marathon.  

Now that I’ve experienced both these blessed events, my conclusion is this: pregnancy is harder.

The “Training” Calendar

I followed a popular five-month training program to get in gear for the long race. Among other things, this program required time, understanding, and support from my husband, and endless podcasts.  

The payoffs were obvious: I was in the best shape of my life, my happy endorphins were through the roof, and I finally shed the accumulated maternity weight from our first two babies.

Oh, and eating. Why, yes, I would like another piece of chocolate cake topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup. Caloric intake means nothing when you’re running 20 to 40 miles a week.

My third nine-month journey toward mommyhood has also required much of the same, especially my husband’s understanding and support. However, the payoffs have been fewer and farther between. I gained 50 pounds by week 34, my hormones tend toward tearful what-am-I-doing-with-my-life outbursts rather than joyful exclamations, and walking up the stairs leaves me panting.

Oh, and eating. Why, yes, I would like another piece of chocolate cake because even though it’ll lead to heartburn, physical misery, and sleep deprivation, I have so few pleasures left.

And let’s keep in mind that pregnancy is twice as long as a marathon training program.

The Big Day

By the time race day came around, I was more than ready to be done with it. But the weather was perfect, cheering crowds were plentiful, and my sister-in-law selflessly became my running doula for the race’s final six miles. Metaphorically holding my hand and distracting me with stories, she got me to the finish about five and a half hours after I started.

If my first two labor experiences are any indication of this next one, I have some idea of what to expect. The weather won’t matter, there will be no cheering crowds other than the medical personnel and my husband (lovely though they are), and it’ll last a whole lot longer than five and a half hours. Also, there will be no walking breaks.

The Aftermath

The relief of finishing the race and achieving my goal was pure bliss. I enjoyed a steady diet of water, wine, and salted snacks, with the family giving me permission to collapse for the rest of the day and then some. There was soreness, but all physical effects were perfectly manageable and gone within days.

In the best case scenario, labor will be hard. Soreness will be the least of my postpartum ailments. And there will be no collapsing in exhaustion when it’s over. There will be disjointed catnaps, breastfeeding triumphs and fails, and anxiety over our baby’s health.

Ah, yes. The baby. This brand new being whose development justifies the fact that pregnancy is harder than marathon training. Because it should be hard. Because holy crap, my body created life. Even in my jaded, whale-like, I’m-so-done mentality, this reality still blows my mind.  

I try to hold onto this perspective as I search for a shirt that covers my belly, when a sneeze triggers my eternally full bladder, and a plate of unpasteurized soft cheeses haunts my dreams.  

We plan to watch this year’s marathon to cheer on those motivated individuals and family members who did the same for me. It’s a fascinating spectacle for the kids and a wonderful way to explore the city’s neighborhoods.  

And I will be grateful to be on the sidelines, snuggling with our newborn.


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