Why Training for a Distance Race is Like Pregnancy

Stick with me for a little bit on this one. I mean, think about it. Training for a half or full marathon and having a baby really aren’t all that different. 

ImageRunning a distance race and having a child both involve months of planning, preparation and waiting for the big day.

In pregnancy, you’ve got hormones galore coursing through your body. After long runs, you’ve got endorphins and cortisol going on.

Pregnancy involves massive changes to your body, not to mention the aches, pains, swelling and constantly having going to the bathroom. Eventually you get to a point when even getting out of bed is difficult.

Training also produces changes in your body; muscles become tighter, you might lean out or you might get a bit of a belly from carbo loading before long runs. Not to mention the achy knees, blisters and difficulty walking the day after a long run. Plus, you’re constantly in the bathroom too, from all the water you’re downing throughout the day to keep hydrated and the tricky stomach issues during and post long runs.

Pregnancy changes your relationship with food. You might need ready access to food 24/7 to keep morning sickness at bay or to feed your rumbling belly in the middle of the night. You might get crazy cravings or throw calorie concerns out the window.

Running long distances and upping your weekly mileage can make you hungry 24/7 too. You bring Gu or energy gels with you during long runs because you need fuel, right now. The day of your long run, you might feel the need to eat 24/7 and forget about calories. 

Toward the end of pregnancy, many moms go into nesting mode. Massive to-do lists get conquered, meals get made and frozen, and supplies are stocked. This helps them feel in control, and ready for the upcoming birth experience (which is really out of their control in many cases).

The closer you get to race day, the more you do to prep for the big day. Ticking off the last training runs, planning the perfect taper, shopping to stock up on foods to properly carbo load, and testing out your fueling strategy. 

In the last weeks of pregnancy, you pack a bag for the hospital, checking and double-checking to make sure you don’t forget anything. You drool over adorable tiny newborn outfits, and eventually decide on the coming home outfit for your babe. 

The night before the race, you pack your race-day bag, deciding what you might need pre- and post-race, and obsessively checking it to make sure you have all the essentials. You also decide on that ever-important racing outfit. 

And then the big day comes. You go into labor. You begin the race. No matter what you’ve done in the weeks leading up to this time, you can never really be truly prepared for what your body and mind will experience. You may have a birth plan or a race plan all mapped out, but sometimes our bodies just don’t cooperate. Other times, everything happens just as we imagined.

Either way, when you see the face of your newborn baby or cross that finish line, there’s no words to describe the mixture of sheer joy, exhaustion and peace that occupy your heart and soul in that moment. It’s life changing. It’s life giving.  It’s life perfecting. 

In which I have a bad run.

Something that troubled me as a new runner–and still troubles me today nearly a year later–is when I have a bad run for no good reason. Sure, I understand bad runs the day after I’ve drank too much alcohol. Or slept too little. Or not drank enough water throughout the day. I get those. I expect those.

It’s these random bad runs that I can’t trace back to a cause which drive me crazy. I’m left wondering why. Why is my calf cramping up? Why are my quads screaming at me? Why do I feel like I’ve done 100 squats when yesterday was a rest day? And why does this have to happen when it’s 75 degrees, sunny and gorgeous outside? Bad runs in good weather just suck.

And when a bad run happens the week of a race?

My confidence takes off running…much faster than me, unfortunately. I have a 5k on Saturday morning, and I have a target time in mind.

And yeah. I had a crappy run on Monday. I headed out for 4 miles, and was pretty happy when I stuck with it for 3. Too bad it was at turtle speed…two minutes/mile slower than my target time.

I will not let this sink my confidence for Saturday. I will not let this suck the joy out of running. I will not.