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Why marathon race day is a lot like being 36 weeks pregnant

Cool shirt from Jen Matz at Run Jog Walk

If you're a regular Run Oregon reader, you might have noticed a lack of previews and recaps from me. It's because I've not been running ... for me, running while pregnant just has not worked out. Oh, I tried. But somewhere around 10 weeks, the nausea was just too bad. After having to stop twice while on a run with my father-in-law to keep everything down, I switched to walking. Then, the problem became needing to use the bathroom - just a quarter-mile on my break at work involved two visits to the little girls' room. Since then, I've been relying on my almost-3-year-old to keep me moving. Lately, though, I've reached the truly uncomfortable stage of pregnancy. As I've been dreaming of my return to running, I've realized that the next four weeks are likely to be pretty much like a 28-day long Groundhog Day of marathon race day. Here's why: 1. You have to pee all the time. 

Our friend Coach Jim offers this advice for marathon morning: “After using the porta-potty, get right back i line. By the time you get to the front of the line, you’ll have to go again.” And the rule that, during the race, when you gotta go, you gotta go. At 36 weeks pregnant, I’ve started just going to the bathroom every time I get up.

2. You are torn between the benefit of warming up and the appeal of saving energy.

Many marathoners (myself included) consider the first three miles to be adequate for warming up. But in reality, a good warm-up will help you loosen up and provide more benefits than it will tire you out. Being pregnant is similar … you want to keep active to maintain a healthy weight, but by the time you cross into that “this could happen any time” zone, you just want to lay on the sofa. Preferably with someone sitting on the other end, rubbing your sore feet.

3. Nutrition is a challenge.

You’re supposed to eat a carefully planned menu of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. Plus low-fat dairy products, and plenty of water. But you know what you want to eat? Comfort food. Even post-marathon, when many runners indulge, it’s still a better idea to eat something healthy that will help your body start the rebuilding process. Luckily for me, I’ve managed to convince myself that vanilla pudding is healthy. And vanilla pudding with marshmallows is extremely healthy.

4. You’re tired, sore, and can’t get comfortable.

After a marathon, muscles hurt that never hurt before, even after your longest training runs. The only thing that can really make it better is time – you have to relax enough for your body to heal and get quality rest. Being hugely pregnant is pretty similar … you can’t sleep without at least three pillows strategically placed on the mattress (sorry, sweetie) … can’t get comfortable … and you often get calf cramps for no apparent reason. Although if your pelvic floor is sore after running a marathon you may want to consult a doctor!

5. The pre-event weight gain.

It’s common for marathoners to keep up their increased caloric intake even though their mileage is starting to decrease. You get used to eating to fuel 45+ miles per week, and then cut down to less than 30. This can lead to feeling sluggish and slow on race day. Well, guess what. In the past three weeks, I’ve gained 15 pounds – most of it retained water (but my doctor says my blood pressure is fine, as of today). Carbo-loading might be to blame in my situation, too, but either way, it’s not awesome.

Let’s not forget water weight. Too much in pregnancy or during a marathon can cause major medical problems. In the past two weeks, I’ve added 10 pounds of water weight to my queenly stature. I only own two pairs of shoes that still fit me right now.

6. You need to know when to get help.

Running a marathon can often be made easier by having a support crew. Maybe it’s a friend running with you, or someone to meet you at key points along the course to hand off nutrition and hydration, even a lucky hat. After the race, runners should let volunteers help them – wrap up in a mylar blanket, collect their finisher goodies, get some food in their system, and visit the medical tent if they’re feeling dizzy, weak or experiencing chills. When you’re 36 weeks pregnant and retaining as much water as I am, you also need to know when to get help. Like when you drop a pen on the floor, need another pillow, or a special pudding-marshmallow snack!

Fortunately for me and thousands of marathoners (and new moms), these tribulations are only temporary. And at the end of the whole thing – even before your body is completely healed – you end up with something amazing. While finishing a marathon isn’t exactly the same as having a baby, it’s still something impressive and an experience you will carry with you the rest of your life. Bibs may get thrown away, medals lost in a box in the garage, and weekly mileage may drop off, but once you earn the title of “marathoner,” you’re always a marathoner.

About Kelly Barten (1146 Articles)
I started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because I felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. I also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support LOCAL race organizers. I'm a Creighton Bluejay (undergrad) and an Oregon Duck (Sports Marketing MBA), and I live in Tigard with my husband and two kids. My "real job" is working for an incredibly awesome math textbook company doing marketing and production.

1 Comment on Why marathon race day is a lot like being 36 weeks pregnant

  1. I’ve never been pregnant and I don’t run marathons anymore, but this is funny! Nicely written!

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