The phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” may be one of the most overused cliché expressions in the world, alongside the cringeworthy “everything happens for a reason,” the phony “I hope you’re well,” and the totally deceitful “I don’t want fries – I’ll just have one of yours.” Sure, pal. One.
Don’t get me wrong: Advising a friend to think like a marathoner and not a sprinter makes sense in theory – take it slow, make a plan, think long term, etc. But when the idiom pops up everywhere from PR pitches to HR trainings to boozy nights out, it starts to feel a bit stale. Case in point: Having run four 26.2-mile events and attended countless bachelorette parties – both of which are said to be marathons, not sprints – I can assure you they have very little in common besides a desperate need for Gatorade the following morning. And the clever t-shirts. And the high-fiving strangers. And the inevitable post-event cheeseburger. Ok, fine, I guess they’re the same thing after all.
Still, I was surprised when I after nine months of waiting, I arrived at the hospital in mid-December and everyone kept telling me I was actually there for a marathon – which I guess is overused idiom-speak for a baby. (Did I mention I was having a baby?)
First, the nurse in triage suggested I get some sleep because the birth process isn’t a sprint. Then one in the delivery room ordered rest for the very same reason as my contractions hit the 12-hour mark. After a third offered identical advice as I took some of my first post-delivery steps, I started to wonder if I was hallucinating all the blatant repetition (those epidurals ARE magical after all.)
But the more I think about it, maybe they were right. I mean, no one gave me a medal or a poncho at the end of this particular “marathon,” but I did get to shuffle home in excruciating pain with a memento to help me remember it all (in this case, our son), so I guess there’s some overlap there after all. And maybe that’s not all. Behold: why having a baby is like running a marathon, written by a poorly rested new mother, so please be kind:
- You’ll spend months preparing for the big day but that doesn’t mean it will go according to plan. Much like a marathon, you’ll want to go into childbirth with several tiers of goals. For races, I usually have an A goal (a new PR), a B goal (a sub-4-hour finish) and a C goal (smile at a bunch of strangers and try not to die.) Same for labor. My A goal was to have a baby in just four hours like my mom had me (fail) and B goal was to deliver a healthy baby with no weird complications (also fail). Luckily, I achieved my C goal, which, consequently, was the same for both events – smile at a bunch of strangers and try not to die. Success!
- Recovery is no joke. Marathoning wreaks havoc on your body, and apparently so does having a 9+ pound child sliced from your womb. Give yourself time to heal and be patient with your progress.
- In both races and childbirth, someone entrepreneurial will take advantage of your weakened state and try to sell you overpriced photos after the fact – and you’ll cave because you don’t feel like photoshopping the watermark out of the free teaser images.
But the main reason labor is basically channeling your inner Pheidippides? Because they say you aren’t ready to run a marathon again until you’ve forgotten the last one, and boy, do I have a lot of forgetting time left! 🙂