Especially for my first time marathoners, I jokingly tell them to think about the race like childbirth. I had an entire conversation about this with some of my runners on our 18 miler, with lots of giggles and agreement! Sure, go in with some expectations of how you would like to run the race, but realize that so many variables are out of your control. For the novice athlete, the end result should be finishing your race intact, regardless of time, and enjoying the experience.
Giving birth is similar. We go in planning for a calm, peaceful delivery. Maybe there will be a doula. Maybe there will be an epidural. Maybe delivery will be quick and easy. You will go in with makeup on for those perfect delivery room photos, and barely break a sweat. Um, sure. It’s rarely, if ever, as nice as this. If you have experienced this, you know. So your goals may shift quickly. But truly, as long as the end result is a healthy baby and mama, you’ve achieved success.
For both, there is a time of casual preparation, shifting into more intense preparation, right? At first, you’re like… yup. I’m going to run a marathon in 6 months. Or, oooh… I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby in 9ish months. You prepare by reading, going to doctor’s appointments, talking to your friends who are already mothers. And as the weeks move along, and your body adapts to the changes, you start to realize birth will be happening. For marathon training, you hopefully have friends you are training with. Maybe even coaches to help. At first, runs are fairly short and very manageable. And then suddenly, you are in the thick of training. You are nailing down your gear choices, making sure your shoe situation is in good shape, figuring out nutrition/hydration strategies for your long runs. You are spending hours on the weekends pounding the pavement. Preparing for both, your subconscious thoughts may occupy your dreams. And suddenly, race day is here. Birth day is here. You just hope that all the preparation you have done will get you through the culmination of your journey.
My friends who just ran Chicago know the challenges of having to shift race goals. They faced similar weather as in 2015, the year I ran this race. It started out fairly cool, so the elite runners didn’t have too much trouble. But back of the packers like me who started in the later corrals dealt with steadily rising temperatures, with weather advisories issued during the race. It was hot and humid in the last couple of hours, with temps well into the 80’s. In October! Not exactly how you wanted to run a major marathon. And this is what they faced. Thankfully, they all realized that the conditions were well beyond their control, and they adjusted their expectations.
My hope for every first time marathoner is to have perfect weather, great crowd support, friends and family along the route, no gear mishaps, and no wall to hit, meaning your nutrition/hydration plan was great. In all likelihood, however, you will have to navigate some obstacles along the way. Maybe it rains. Maybe it’s hot, and your water stops run out of water and/or cups. Maybe it’s freezing cold and ruthlessly windy. Maybe your partner has to bail on you because they aren’t feeling great, and suddenly you are running alone. Maybe you dropped gear early on that you wish you’d kept. All of these things have happened to me during a marathon. But in the end, I still want you to finish and get that medal. The race is just the last stage in the journey that began 6 months ago. You started to earn your prize the moment you signed up for the race.
Interestingly, much like childbirth, the pain and challenge of the event will subside, and you may only have mostly good memories of this tremendous achievement. This will leave you with the nudge to do it all over again! Marathoners are a crazy bunch, indeed.
Have you ever run a marathon? To my fellow mother runner marathoners, can you identify with these thoughts and feelings? I ran a virtual marathon last weekend, and I’m already planning for my next!
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.