Running a marathon is a lot like having a baby. I haven't really done too many things that have challenged my physical, mental, and spiritual strength outside of these two things, so perhaps that is why I can so easily draw the parallels. In any event, this week, as I reflect back on last weekend's 26.2, it has made me nostalgic about the birth, and pregnancy, of my girls. Here's why:
From the moment you think about it, you can't stop thinking about it. Once the spark is set in your mind, the fire builds. You may tell no one, at first, or you may tell everyone, but either way, it's all you can think about. The idea of it makes you equally excited and terrified. You can't wait for it to happen and you can't wait for it to be over.
It makes you change all of your habits. You need more sleep. You need to drink more water. You can't drink alcohol. You have to pay attention to what you are eating and truly consider what you consume as nutrients and fuel.
You read everything that you can about it but it still doesn't feel real. You hear horror stories but you know it won't be like that for you. You worry that is will be like that for you, too.
You buy tons of gear for it. You don't know if you'll really need it all but you feel compelled to be prepared with more junk than you know what to do with. People may buy you stuff in preparation for it.
You feel a kinship with others who are going through it or have gone through it. Anyone who hasn't done it, could never, ever understand what is is like.
You are annoyed by people's dumb questions and comments about it.
You count down the weeks, days, and minutes until it happens, tracking everything you possibly can about it. You may even write it down or record the details on an app.
You've consulted the doctor, one too many times, about a funny feeling here or there. You wonder if it will go away when it happens or will it get worse?
You pray that nothing will get between you and your goal.
You may spend time with others who are going to do it, too. You compare notes. You share your excitement and your fears.
In the days leading up to the main event, you feel like your bladder is going to explode and you have to pee every 10 minutes.
You think about what you are going to wear and what music you want to listen to. You pack your bag and make your play list. You make sure your ipod is charged. You make sure you have your phone handy for last minute, "wish me luck" pics and posts.
When the big day comes, you can't believe it is finally here! You can't wait for it to all be over but you are afraid to get there.
Your spouse is there to support you but he has no idea what this is like. He asks why it takes you so long and why you look so tired after.
You know you should eat something but you feel like you have cotton stuffed in your mouth.
At first you feel strong, like, you got this! You can conquer the world. It's not as bad as you thought.
At first, you are able to chat, share funny stories, laugh a little, have a little small talk.You may still be smiling.
After a while, you realize that you are getting pretty tired. You're thirsty. You drink but you don't really want to. You don't see the end in sight but you keep going anyway.
Shortly after, it really starts to hurt. So long small talk. You put on you ipod and go in your cave. Someone tells you to breathe, which is good because, you have forgotten this is important. Someone gives you a drink. Your stomach does a flip.
You are hours in and this sucks. Everything screams and burns. Your music is on but you can't hear it. Someone smiles at you and says you are doing good. You try to smile but you don't want to. You want to scream. You might swear.
This is getting old. You are so, so, done. You've had enough. You want to throw in the towel. Who cares? A nap sounds good. You want to take a nap. You close your eyes.
Somebody shouts your name and tells you to keep going! You are almost done! You can do this! Don't forget to breathe!
You feel like you are on a drug trip. You might shit your pants but you're not really sure. Maybe you pissed down your leg, too?
It hurts so bad that you start to scream and cry and whimper. You don't know how you are doing it but your body keeps moving even though you don't have one ounce of energy left in your body.
You put your head down, grit your teeth, dig in your heels, and give it all you've got.
The end is in sight! The end is near! You did it! You did it!You hurt so bad you think your head might pop off.
Someone wraps something warm around you. You smile and wince. Parts of your body hurt that you didn't even know exist. You feel so great but you know if you sit down or bend over or lie down you may never get up again. You are afraid to move too much. You will never forget this pain. You will never do this again.
Someone snaps a picture and you smile. You look at this photo 100 times after and think to yourself, "I'm so proud. That was hard but worth it.I never knew I could be so strong."
You post that photo on facebook. You go girl! You earned that badge of honor. Hell yeah!
The next day you feel like you were hit with a truck. Every movement reminds you that your body just got it's ass kicked. Advil and water are your friend.
The pain goes away with time and you somehow forget about it and only remember the glory and the good. In a few months time you think, "Yeah, I'll do that again." And the spark starts all over.
Of course, having a child is much more profound and meaningful and the commitment, pain and perseverance go well beyond a few hours, yet I can't help but find commonalities with running the marathon. Whenever we have a dream and we do everything we can to make it happen, and we bang ourselves up in the process, we can't help but feel like a warrior in our own right. So, whatever spark is in your belly (baby, desire to run, or otherwise) I encourage you to enjoy it to the fullest- the pain and joy. You won't regret it.