Preface (Dispersing Blame): Often, us writers are asked to cover unusual topics or events. Sometimes these assignments are so out there, a writer can’t help but wonder if they’re being fooled into setting themselves up for career-sinking public cancellation.
Doubly so when the management figure requesting the work is aware of the author’s affinity for edgy – some might say “offensive” — humor, as well as saying things they don’t necessarily mean if it might get a reaction.
Why goad that person into exploring subject matter that could prove disastrous if handled clumsily, if not to see them self-immolate professionally? I suspect that’s what has been done to me here.
As a result of the aforementioned treachery, I’m examining which activity is harder:
24 Hours of Le Mans or 24 hours of Lamaze Breathing Technique?
Betting on Everything
You’ll be surprised to learn that, technically, top sports betting sites offer odds for both activities we’re discussing today.
Aside from their similar-sounding names and equal lengths of time (for the purposes of this piece), the two don’t have much in common. Thankfully, online sportsbooks offer betting lines for everything these days!
- Betting on 24 Hours of Le Mans is obvious; you can find odds on the annual event in the “auto racing” section of most sports betting sites. </li>
- As for Lamaze, you can’t wager on any old pregnant woman’s breathing patterns – but if we agree to include the act of giving birth as a whole, that increases our options. We’ll often see odds related to the upcoming births of royals’ and celebrities’ babies. These betting lines are usually found on the “entertainment” or “current events” pages of your favorite online sportsbook. </li></ul>
So, let’s talk about what exactly it is we’re comparing: two very different ways to spend 24 hours.
What’s Being Compared Here?
- 24 Hours of Le Mans – If you’ve seen the move Ford vs. Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, you’ll be somewhat familiar with day-long race. Held annually near Le Mans, France, it is the world’s oldest active endurance auto race. Teams of three compete to record the greatest distance driven in 24 hours of Le Mans, rather than completing a fixed distance the fastest. The event takes place on the Circuit de la Sarthe, a course that covers a mix of public roads and racing track.
- To win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, cars must be capable of operating without mechanical failure for 24 consecutive hours, as well as reaching speeds in excess of 200 MPH in the track’s straightaways. The race’s unique demands have been responsible for numerous breakthroughs innovations in automotive design.
- What is Lamaze? – France is also responsible for our second item. The Lamaze method is a collection of breathing and relaxation techniques popularized in the 1950s by French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze. Expecting mothers/couples often attend a series of Lamaze classes teaching them what to expect from the birthing process.
- The classes also provide attendees with strategies to facilitate labor, promote comfort, and deal with pain – including the use of massage, aromatherapy, hot/cold packs, and different movements and positions. However, the system has been criticized by some for being anti-feminist, over-disciplinary, and ineffective.
- For the sake of the comparison at the heart of this article, we’ll be including the entire experience of giving birth, over the course of a 24-hour labor, rather than 24 hours of Lamaze breathing alone. Not that breathing funny for that long is a picnic either — as any out of shape person who has tried the Wim Hoff method can attest.
What’s harder to accomplish?
Racing a car – often at extreme speeds – for 24 hours straight, or enduring all the trials and tribulations associated with giving birth over an equal length of time?
24 Hours of Le Mans
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and the oldest ongoing endurance event in auto racing. Due to the length of the race, it poses a significant challenge to car manufacturers and drivers alike.
Only the finest automobiles can sustain nearly constant high speeds for 24 straight hours without breaking down entirely. If only cars could do Lamaze breathing to reduce their stress and improve performance.
The same goes for the athletes inside the vehicles. Each car is shared by a team of three drivers, who must pilot their machines at velocities reaching 205 MPH for over two hours a time. Relief drivers take over during pit stops, allowing the person subbing out some time to eat and rest. This goes on for the entire day.
Assuming each teammate reaches the two-hour mark behind the wheel, you’re never resting for more than four hours. That’s not a lot of time to sleep, especially when performing tasks that require maximum reaction time and focus.
Nobody on the team is allowed to exceed 14 driving hours total. Furthermore, under certain conditions, officials may restrict drivers to 80 consecutive minutes behind the wheel before they must rest for 30 minutes minimum.
What’s so challenging about a car race with so many helpers and safety regulations? Well, the drivers are pushing their vehicles at maximum throttle around roughly 85% of the nearly 8.5-mile course. Other portions are met with gradual curves or sharp turns.
The deadliest 24 Hours of Le Mans (1955) saw French driver Pierre Levegh killed in a crash that sent his car flying into the spectator’s area where it killed 83 people in attendance and injured 180 more.
Still, when it comes to the comparison being made on this page, 24 Hours in Le Mans may suffer from all the changes made in the name of safety.
There are larger teams of drivers, stricter rules regarding driver rotations, and the track avoids populated areas – they don’t even enter the town of Le Mans anymore!
24 Hours of Lamaze Breathing
“Women be milking that baby thing too…It can’t be nearly as bad as playing a basketball game on a sprained ankle.”
— Charles Barkley on TNT’s Inside the NBA
When Charles Barkley made his famous “baby thing” quote, he – like me – was probably ignorant to some of the harsher realities of childbirth.
We all know about Lamaze breathing and the basic baby delivery stuff – which isn’t exactly pleasant – but in October 2021, midwives at the Royal Oldham Hospital, in Lancashire, England sent chills down spines all around the world when a picture of one of their art projects went viral.
The image – which was shared and commented on tens of thousands of times across social media platforms — featured an arrangement of pumpkins with open mouths, each growing wider than the last, with corresponding looks of horror on their faces.
How much relief could Lamaze breathing possibly offer while parts of your pelvis are behaving like the rear door on a military cargo jet?!
Surely, having your guts removed for your newborn’s alternate escape route is preferable to whatever’s going on with those last pumpkins.
Sure, there are cheat codes like epidurals that eliminate the pain associated with one’s lady parts expanding to a size capable of accommodating a bowling ball, but that stuff wears off.
I won’t go into details, but a baby bulldozing through that area leaves all sorts of stuff torn and mangled for months after the deed. And hemorrhoids.
If there was a race that required men to pass a nickel-sized kidney stone through their unit while simultaneously blowing out their brown eye, we’d have a fair comparison. And it’d be mighty hard to find participants.
As recently as 2017, the World Health Organization estimates that 300,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes in a single year – 808 women per day.
How can an auto race compete with those stats?
Even during the race’s most tragic moments, Le Mans has always fallen well short of those mortality numbers.
Everyone involved would surely be arrested for unleashing Carmaggedon and spending however long it would take to run down such an enormous number of misfortunate bystanders.
Not to mention the mechanics and engineers who’d be guilty of premeditation for equipping the vehicles the many upgrades required to keep them plowing through piles of bodies without wrecking or getting stuck.
I imagine the kinds of brutal technology needed for such a task are very different than what’s useful to maximize the distance driven in 24 hours of Le Mans.
Side Note About Numbers:
Yes, I realize I should be looking at these two activities’ deaths in proportion to their total number of participants/occurrences, respectively. This comparison isn’t meant to be that serious, but what the hell?
140,250,000 children were born in 2017. Does that mean exactly 140,250,000 women gave birth? No. Some had twins, triplets or more, while other women may have given birth more than once in the calendar year. Regardless, the 140.25M number is a good enough approximation. Using that figure, the 300,000 deaths in 2017 represent just 0.21 percent of the women giving birth. On the other hand, 22 drivers have died while competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1923.
60 cars qualify for a place on the starting grid for each race. Each car was manned by a team of two drivers from 1923 until the early 1990s, when rules were changed to require three. That gives us an estimated 13,500 drivers throughout Le Mans history (90 races x 60 cars x 2.5 drivers = 13,500). The 22 deaths give the race a mortality rate of approximately 0.16%.
The calculations aren’t perfect, but they prove my point – and in 2022, everyone knows statistics only exist to confirm our preconceived biases.
Anyway, go look at those last few pumpkins again. How do you compete with the human body mutating to the point of being able to accommodate an entire Thanksgiving turkey? Lamaze breathing or no Lamaze breathing, that is truly an impressive – if not terrifying — physical feat.
As for the 24 Hours of Le Mans — wow, you drove for 24 whole hours with the help of a pit crew, state of the art technology, and two other drivers? Truck drivers go for longer with shottier vehicles all the time, and without any teammates to help take the wheel. The only partner they need is meth.
You think I’d say 24 Hours of Le Mans is harder than 24 hours of Lamaze while in labor? No way. Being a contrarian isn’t worth attracting the scorn of any creature that can endure whatever happened to those poor pumpkins.