Running a marathon is the closest experience I've had to giving birth. There, I said it, and here's why.
Prior to finishing my first marathon, I'd completed several halfs and a dozen 5K's. For as long as I can remember, my life has been sprinkled with bootcamp classes, kickboxing, hot yoga, and a variety of DIY workouts I've pieced together, thanks to my stint as a trainer. Fitness has always been my thing.
So, when I was training for a half marathon last spring, I didn't think twice when a friend asked me to join her team to run the New York City marathon. It was the perfect way to stay in shape, focus on a goal, and raise money for cancer research. #fredsteammskcc. I joined the team and from that point on, I hit the ground running (no pun intended).
My training became top priority, upping a mile every week, cross-training here and there to keep the quads in peak condition, and sampling every single hydration powder and Gu gel on the market. This is when my appetite skyrocketed, oftentimes taking over my quasi-healthy diet. I was so voracious once that I ate half of my daughter's blueberry muffin when her back was turned. I spent months focused on getting my body in gear, all so I could ready myself for the impending marathon.
Can you see where I'm going with this?
Then, just a few weeks before the big day, I hit the taper phase of marathon training, what I like to compare to the nesting stage of pregnancy. Following the advice of those who ran marathons before me, I shortened my runs and rested my body up for the big day. This part of the journey also included a lot of online shopping for race day gear. Pricey socks, caffeinated fuel, a running belt, a hydration backpack, and I even threw in a new sports bra for good measure. This is when things really started to get exciting. I made it my mission to follow all the elite runners on social media, pumping myself up for birthing my first marathon baby.
And then came race day. Much like the same experiences I had on both my babies' birthdays, race day was filled with a lot of excitement...and waiting. Reciting everything I was taught and told about what it would be like running through the five Burroughs of New York City, I was ready to run.
The start of the marathon was adrenaline-fueled and filled with a variety of emotions. Little kids holding signs nearly brought me to tears and signs hoisted overhead that read "you paid for this," made me laugh out loud, alongside 24,000 other runners. Seeing my family dressed in matching Fred's Team shirts with hundreds of other team supporters, brought on that same crash of emotion that I had in the delivery room when my husband cheered me on while holding a leg and urging me to push.
And then came mile eighteen, oh mile eighteen. Maybe it was symbolic because my bib number was 31818. This was the mile when the heat in my body kicked into high gear and I had to get mental about it. My hips ached and my energy levels started to nosedive. But I pressed ahead, bolstered by the sideline supporters who were yelling, "Kate you can do this, you're almost there." Instead of a sticker on my hospital gown in the birthing room, they read from the letters that were ironed onto the front of my shirt.
Mile 22 started another tornado of emotions. I thought there was no way in hell my body could propel forward one more step, let alone four more miles. By this point, night was starting to fall on NYC, and the darkness served as some sort of dream-like state, that made me truly question if the end was really anywhere in sight. My lower back felt bruised from the repeated jostling of my body, my hips were stuck in place, unmoving. I felt an urge to go to the bathroom, so I pulled over at the porta-potty and did something I never thought I'd do. I sat on the seat and texted a friend at the same time. I'm not proud, but nature calls, and with limited leg function, hovering wasn't an option. Sorry, mom.
I like to compare mile 25 to the crowning process of delivering a baby. That point where the end is so close, you're told there is a head emerging from your lady parts, but you still can't quite see that baby. And then, with one final push forward, you cross the finish line, and you're immediately presented with your shiny golden baby, by a stranger who wraps you up in a massive cape and says, "Congratulations, you've just completed a full marathon." Announcements are made, you receive a thousand congratulations via text from all the people who were tracking your training and donated to the cause.
But friends, it doesn't end there. The similarities of running a marathon and birth continue for several weeks after. Remember all those folks who were cheering on the sideline throughout the race? They all scatter and go about their own business while you walk like a zombie through a strange city to reconnect with your family. The cheers disintegrate and instead, you're on the side of the road attempting to stretch a body that has just been through the most intense workout ever. You have this gold medal around your neck but you don't know what to do next or how to recover safely.
You spend the next couple weeks in a haze, maneuvering yourself up and down the stairs like you are learning how to walk for the first time, you're tired but you can't sleep because something is keeping you up all night-your body can't seem to stop running, that golden medal now anchors your life.
And then comes the weight loss. Yes, you heard me correctly. I gained weight while training for a marathon. I'm assuming it's because of the ravenous way I was eating those last few weeks. Five pounds stemming from sugary Halloween-candy binges. Unfortunately, the running didn't kill off these cals but hopefully, the stroller walks will.
Years later, you will always have that gold medal and the memories it comes with and the prep, pain, and panic will all be worth it.
If you like this content, be sure to check out the first book in the McKenna Mystery Series.