minutes per mile blog

will giving birth be like running a marathon?

Friday!! And still no baby yet. As Anthony and I have been preparing for the big event, I’ve heard a handful of times that labor is similar to a marathon. If so, do you think I can break my PR of 3:20?! :)


Let’s see what the internet is saying about the topic.

  • Apparently the “finish line” emotions take the edge off the pain. In this study from the European Journal of Pain (best journal name ever), researchers interviewed marathon runners and mothers, and found that both groups reported high pain levels immediately after the event. However, 3-6 months later, they recalled much lower pain levels. So I guess the babies and medals are worth it! 
  • This awesome blogger wrote a post comparing her experience running seven marathons and her unmedicated birth experience. She came up with ELEVEN reasons why the two are similar (including the fact that she snacked on HoneyStinger waffles through both! Ha!) 
  • This forum is a fun read and has lots of back-and-forth from mothers, runners, and mother runners. My favorite quote so far: “Childbirth was way harder. Also took longer. Marathons are easy after going through that crap.” And commenter on another forum says: ” I have completed over 10 marathons and many half ironman triathlons. Child birth pain was MUCH worse! No comparison.” Yikes.
  • A fun article from Women’s Running lists a whopping 20 reasons the two events are similar. Including the facts that “it is entirely possible that you will poop yourself and/or puke during the event” and “photos taken during the event are usually horrendous and involve you making all kinds of contorted faces.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any more scientific studies on the issue — mostly just forums and blog posts sharing women’s personal experiences! I guess the academic research community hasn’t realized what a pressing topic this is :)

I’ll just have to conduct my own in-person experience and get back to you. Will my baby come out with free orange slices and a shiny medal?!


Anyone have experience in both endurance events? If so, tell me your thoughts in the comments! Just wondering whether I should pack some GU in my hospital bag. Thanks.

11 thoughts on “will giving birth be like running a marathon?

  1. My first labor and delivery were definitely like my marathon experience – if I got hit by a mac truck at the end of the marathon. It was long 22+ hours with over 2 hours of pushing so I was exhausted and recovery was hard – bleeding, pain, and just shock I think. The second time around – more like a sprint, intense but fast and recovery was much easier (no tearing, yay) but still even if you feel good after – rest because you can really slow down the healing process if you push yourself at first. Here’s hoping your delivery is much faster! Btw, I packed/used shot blocks both times and they were amazing! I couldn’t stomach anything else but it gave me the burst of energy I needed when I was really fading. Good luck, either way you’ll be riding the most amazing high being a new momma is so so wonderful! Congrats!

    • Haha, getting hit by a truck at the last mile?!! That made me laugh. Hoping for a swift experience, but who knows what will happen! Good call on the shot blocks. I was half kidding suggesting that I pack them, but it seems like a lot of women actually do eat energy gels etc. during a labor, just a like during a distance race! Thanks for the tips!!

  2. Honestly, I don’t think it is a good comparison. It is such a different type of pain to run a marathon vs. giving birth. I guess there is something to be said about mental toughness though! The reward of meeting your baby is SO MUCH better than any finish line :) I thought I might need GU’s or a snack during labor. I didn’t want to eat but did feel hungry. Ginger ale worked wonders! The first meal after you give birth tastes incredible! So excited for you!

    • I think we will pack snacks just to have on hand but who knows whether I’ll eat them all or not want any of them! Labor pain isn’t “pain,” right? It’s “waves of intensity” ;). Hoping the mental toughness will help out at least!

  3. This is hilarious! I had run two marathons prior to giving birth (one at 6 weeks pregnant), and I have to say, in my experience, a marathon was the BEST preparation I could have had for labour, and the birth itself. Some moms may say that’s crazy, but I definitely see similarities between the two. While the transition stage was more intense than the last few miles of a marathon, you finish with this squishy little baby after pushing. I mean, medals are cool, but just imagine the post marathon endorphins x1000. I think you will do great! Everyone’s experience is different, but there are definitely days where (in my head) I would choose birth over 26.2 miles.

    • Ohhhh, thanks for sharing! Yeah, I’m not really into medals anyways. They’re in a box under my bed. I think a baby will be a much better present :)

  4. Are you saying you’d like me to bring my bicycle to the delivery room in case you need some additional moral support towards the end? Just in case you go out too fast at the start.

  5. OMG, definitely take gu’s. When I had my second, I was induced in the mid-afternoon. I was so anxious leading up to the induction I couldn’t eat much. I wasn’t worried because with my first I wasn’t hungry AT ALL for any of the 18 hours of labor. I WAS STARVING THE WHOLE TIME AND THEY WOULDN’T LET ME EAT ANYTHING EXCEPT POPSICLES. I literally spent the time between contractions thinking about the egg sandwich I was going to have after this baby was born. I was induced at 3 pm and the baby was born at 4:45 am. I had a relatively easy (if kind of long for a second baby) labor so I had a lot of time to consider my hunger and I would have killed for a Gu. Also, that egg sandwich and cup of coffee was the best I ever had after he was born :) Good luck – it isn’t as terrible as everyone will tell you… and this coming from a girl who had a particularly bad birth injury with my first.

  6. One big similarity that I noticed is that you need to be able to adapt and change your plan on the fly (labor plan went out the window, and it was get me an epidural ASAP). Biggest difference – you can drop out of a marathon, you can’t stop giving birth.

    Overall, though, it is so rewarding. First 8 weeks were really tough, then it got easier and more fun.