Ultramarathons and childbirth, part 2
I wrote a few years ago about how ultramarathons are - or are not - like childbirth. It's an imperfect metaphor that I nevertheless keep returning to, and thinking on. Jeremy ran a 160km race last Friday and Saturday and I'm beginning to think that perhaps the childbirth metaphor is suited to an ultramarathon after all, but the runner is both baby and mom.
So there is the intensely difficult physical exertion of an ultramarathon, and of labor. There are times where you feel pretty good and are ready for the hills and the snow, and there are times where you've only gone 30km and feel so horrible that you don't know how you can possibly make it to the finish line. Hours pass in a blur of alternating agony and tedium and uncertainty. Then when you do finish, you have a burst of adrenalin that propels you through accepting a medal, hugs, congratulations, and some hot food at the refreshments tent that tastes like the best thing you've ever eaten. That's the ultramarathoner as the mom.
Then the ultramarathoner becomes the baby. You're helpless and your body is frantically trying to work through and repair the trauma of what just happened. Your limbs seem to be out of your control. You cough and gurgle and wheeze without realizing it and you want to lie down in a dark, quiet place for a few days. Above all else, you need someone to take care of you - bring you food, help you put on clean clothes, tuck you in. And then, with each passing day, with food and rest and care, you get stronger.
It's hard running the behind-the-scenes show while Jeremy is running an ultramarathon, but I welcome the chance to reflect on what it means to Do Hard Things, to see Jeremy pass through the valley of the shadow and come out the other side, at once weak as a newborn but triumphant as a woman who's just given birth.