Which is worse- running a marathon or natural childbirth?

On Kendra’s last Answer Me This, she asked what is the most physically demanding thing you’ve ever done. My answer was the same as hers; running marathons and natural childbirth. After baby Will was born, my best friend asked me which is worse- running a marathon or natural childbirth? It’s a good question.

They have a lot in common. Staying mentally and emotionally in control is important and also nearly impossible. You have to take it one thing at a time. One contraction. One mile. You cannot start thinking about how far you have to go or you will completely lose it. At some point during both you become convinced you cannot go on and will be running/pushing forever and ever. They are both intensely physical and at the same time almost out of body experiences. With both, you can’t imagine how much it’s going to hurt until you’re there.

The marathon pain lasted longer for me. (My entire labor & delivery was 3 hours, start to finish. My water broke at 11 pm and Will was born at 2 am. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a 3 hour marathon in me.) The really tough piece of the marathon, mentally, is that you know you can make the pain stop at any time if you just stop running. With childbirth, there’s no “stopping to walk.” You’re less in control in that the contractions just keep coming and you can’t make them stop. Although shorter, the childbirth pain was more acute than the marathon.


Before the 2009 NYC Marathon

People say you forget the pain of childbirth and the marathon. I guess it must be true at least to a degree since people have multiple children and keep signing up for races. But I don’t know….even though I am excited for whenever the next member of our family comes along, I am terrified of giving birth again. And even though I’m super happy to be running Marine Corps Marathon this fall, I am already nervous about standing at that starting line knowing what’s coming, and then fighting my way through the last 10k of the race. But for some reason, I keep signing myself up for more. It must be the medals.


But this little guy is the best finisher’s medal anyone’s ever handed me.



5 thoughts on “Which is worse- running a marathon or natural childbirth?

  1. Please share your secrets for a 3 hour labor and delivery! At first, I kind of dreaded the pain of the marathon, but now that I’ve gotten my body accustom to them, it doesn’t hurt as much.

    1. I think my secret to the 3 hour labor and delivery is genetics- my mom was fast too. However, on the recommendation on several friends who are moms of many, I took an herbal supplement called Gentle Birth from Mountain Meadow Herbs in the month before Will was born. He’s my first, so I really have no basis for comparison but they all swore it made a huge difference in their labor and made it faster and easier.

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