I’m a man and I’ve experienced the equivalent of CHILDBIRTH and it hurts.

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MAN Childbirth

The last hour of a marathon or Ironman race can be excruciating. There is a titanic game of struggle and dialogue that goes on in your head when your body is bellowing to stop the trial you’re putting it through. This happens regardless of your level of fitness because you are pushing yourself harder than you’ve ever made yourself go during training. Competition, whether against others or just yourself, does this to you.

I’ve always said that participating in a lengthy race of any sort is akin to self-inflicted torture…an agony that we seem drawn back to time after time.

Just like childbirth.

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Go ahead m’ladies, hit me now for making this comparison!

And then there are the occasional crazies who want both experiences simultaneously and run a marathon while pregnant, like the 27 year-old woman that completed the Chicago Marathon in 2011, only to deliver a full-term baby 7 1/2 hours later.

pregnant_runner

I feel qualified to make this comparison since I’ve competed in 2 marathon races, 2 Ironman competitions, a countless assortment of other running/swimming/cycling contests, AND (it’s rumoured!) I’ve fathered and assisted in the delivery of 3 children. Absolutely none of which, I freely admit, I excelled at! I have a box full of “participation” ribbons and medallions.

Both pregnancy/childbirth and marathon races require a substantial investment of time and energy with the result that our bodies are changed in significant ways over a period of weeks and months. There is a voluntary – except, I suppose, in unplanned pregnancies –  commitment to lifestyle change with an end goal in mind… one where you get a medal hung around your neck, and the other where you get a baby laid upon your chest.

There truly are some striking similarities between marathons and childbirth, so hear me out:

  • Growing the body, stamina and mental strength to start and finish each for most takes about 9 months.
  • Specialized diet planning with a concentration on calcium sources, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and quality protein makes a big difference to the end result.
  • Coaches and specialized classes pass on the most up-to-date and leading scientific knowledge to achieve the optimal end result.
  • Smoking (and alcohol)  is a huge NO NO for both.
  • A collection of stretchy and often colourful new special-purpose clothing is needed to accommodate the growth of muscle or baby tissue. Gear is gathered, whether baby strollers and snugglies and nipple creams, or chafing lotion and gel carrying belts and water bottles.
  • There are moments, sometimes days, or weeks during training or gestation where the will to continue dwindles and fades. Sleep patterns can be disrupted, pains materialize, gastrointestinal distress pops up.
  • Going into labour is like the start gun firing at the beginning of the marathon. You still feel reasonably comfortable but know that the coming hours will bring on increased intensity and pain.
  • The cheering, encouraging crowds and family support along the course of the marathon resemble the nurses, doctors, and family members urging and firing up the expectant Mom to push to the finish of delivery.
  • There is a huge sense of elation at the finish, knowing that the pain and discomfort are largely finished and the rewards are tangible. This is the point where they either hang a medal around your neck or a latch a baby onto your breast.
  • Afterwards, you don’t feel like walking for a day or two as the stiffness and  pain below the waist begins to heal. In both cases, the cards and flowers brighten the recovery period and celebration.
  • Wound Care: Stitches and sitz baths for mommys…blister bandaids and hot tubs for the marathoner.
  • And finally, posting the glorious results. eg. A 7 lb 4 oz. baby girl, 70 cm. in length born after 7 hours of labour…or a 4 hour 16 minute marathon run of 26.2 miles on a sultry 30C day!

Blisterfoot

Childbirth and Marathoning both bring out the best in an individual human’s strength and resolve. Life would be fairly simple to pass through without experiencing the pain and sacrifice needed to complete either of these, or other singularly difficult ventures. But we know that any positive experience or accomplishment comes with the challenge of overcoming obstacles. Jumping smoothly or haphazardly over hurdles is what makes the end result so satisfying.

Our DNA builds a desire within us to make something from nothing. The sense of living a life well-lived entails the feeling of having helped ourselves and/or others to be or do something over and above the everyday. Beyond getting up in the morning, eating, working and going back to sleep at night. Making a mark means doing something creative, or arduous, or selfless. There is no end to what any one of us can do to cross the threshold into the realm of memorable or noteworthy.

I’ll be honest…

When I compare marathon racing and childbirth, I mostly get bemused or frankly scornful looks from women who have participated in each of these events. Most willingly acknowledge the similarities, but ultimately, childbirth wins the competitive match for supremacy for discomfort (excruciating pain, if you will!), disruption, and the pleasureful reward.

Deep down for most, a marathon medal hanging from one’s neck just isn’t the same as holding and nurturing a living, breathing, warm bundle of new-life, regardless of the pain endured.

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My youngest baby and me at the end of the Vancouver Marathon run 2012…

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