Monday, May 16, 2011

On Runners and the Pregnant Women Who Feed Them

When you’re training for a marathon, or logging major miles for that matter, put yourself next to a pregnant woman. Chances are, there’s going to be food nearby.

Let me explain.

A good friend of mine at work is pregnant with her second child. We’ve developed somewhat of a mutual respect for one another’s appetite; however, I know reading this she’ll say, “Right, except that I pack on the pounds and you look manorexic.  Eat a Cheeto.” And I’ll go ahead and correct her here, saying that “I look ‘fit’ and that in the words of Quentin Cassidy, 'Gaunt is beautiful.'  I'm not eating a Cheeto.”
One runner's Boston jacket is a pregnant woman's "push present"
"Eat it!" she demands, "You're too skinny."  I choke it down. Anyway….

Almost every morning, I can count on her to plop herself down in my office with a Styrofoam container and say, “I’m gonna eat with you,” which is fine as long as she’s sure to put the word “with” in there.

She opens that container and out wafts the smell of fried eggs, sausage patties, and French toast. Excuse me while I dab at the corners of my mouth. As I sat there and watched her shovel eat, it reminded me of when I first started training for the Vermont Marathon back in 2009. I’d entered new mileage levels and all I wanted the day after my long run was a sausage and egg sandwich on an English muffin with a little ketchup. Had to have it. No questions asked.

When it comes time to ramp up the mileage, the one thing I can count on is unending hunger, that and a trail of bodies if I’m not fed every two hours.

This got me thinking about the similarities between long distance runners and pregnant women. After all, isn’t pregnancy really the marathon of the human condition?

Combine the tiredness, the mood swings, the vomiting?, with the insatiable hunger and cravings, I'd argue you might not know the difference.

The old adage goes: Give your body what it wants. For me, it was the sausage, egg, and cheese, a brownie fudge sundae, and, lately, yes, beef jerky. For her, we’re riding in the car to go get Starbucks when she says, “I’m hungry, but I want something healthy.” So, we drive around the parking lot, when she saw it… “Pizza!” she blurted out.
“That’s healthy?” I asked.
“That’s what my baby wants, that’s what she’s getting.”

Replace “pizza,” with Chipotle, Baja Fresh, Five Guys, carrots, Subway, blueberries, Hot Fries (remember Hot Fries?), get the idea. The woman is a culinary mad libs.

And, me? I like to think of myself on most days as her partner in crime, right there with her during my 40/50/60 mile weeks, fork and knife in hand, ready at a moment’s notice to chow down, elbow deep in whatever plat du jour is served up.

But realistically, I am the hyena waiting for the lion to finish. I’m the fish hanging off the side of the shark waiting for scraps. I hover. And I admit it. We’ll talk and I’ll alternate between glancing at her food and up to her eyes as if to put it in her head, “I’ll finish that if you can’t.” Last week it was Subway, “I’m getting a footlong," she said.  "I'll give you a quarter of it."  My eyes (and stomach) lit up.  By meal's end, I sat happily licking the mayo off my fingers, satisfied that I'd managed to get twice as much as she promised, PLUS, I still had my own lunch waiting for me in the fridge at the office.

On the pizza day, we returned to the office with my coffee and her two slices; however, the place ran out of small boxes and had to put both pieces in the “large pizza box.” One of our co-workers walked by and said, “Are you both going to eat that whole pizza?” her eyes as wide as pepperonis.
“It’s only two pieces for her. They ran out of boxes.” I said, dejectedly.
“Whew…the way you two eat, I’d have believed it.”

While I churned out the miles toward Boston and she grew a human inside her, we happily consumed our calories, and...hey, are you gonna eat that?

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