When people learn I’m married, they’ll frequently ask if my husband runs too. My usual response: “Thank heavens, no.”
Truth is, there’s only room for one runner in this relationship.
We aren’t an athletically mismatched couple, as The New York Times outlined last week. He’s always taken physical fitness just as seriously as I do. That’s why I never complained about his extra gym hours to remain fit for his U.S. Coast Guard duties. In exchange, he allowed me to stick to whatever training schedule promised a new PR. But I often wondered: Were he also trying to run faster or farther, could he have been as accommodating? After all, weather, jobs and child care dictated when each of us got to do our thing, and his normal routine seemed far more flexible than my chaotic one. I’ve seen dual-runner marriages that manage to make it work; and I’ve witnessed plenty that don’t. Once children are introduced, someone typically must yield to the other’s agenda and hope to catch up later.
Granted, I’ll never be a serious athlete. But there did come a time when I was reminded of how selfish even recreational runners can be.
To the outside world, I was just another mom who entered a lot of regional races, certainly not someone you’d consider “competitive.” But within our house walls, I was a woman on a mission. If a race field was small enough, I wanted to come home with an award. If it was too big for that, shaving 15 seconds off my best time would do. To get there took time—time normally allocated elsewhere. I slept less so I could run more. After work, I’d head to the gym to cross-train, meaning dinner was late if it was my turn to cook. I invested family time plotting race schedules for me and my corporate running team and ignored “No more pasta!” pleas. Despite the occasional financial crunch, I never questioned a new pair of Nikes or $25 5k.
I started traveling to faraway races, with the family in tow. And I’d convinced myself that because I was happy with this life, everyone around me must be too. Such devotion and determination made me an ideal role model, or so I thought. Razor-like reality sliced through that delusion one blustery April morning.
I’d dragged everyone to Washington, D.C., from our home in North Carolina so I could again try to best my time at the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. It was very early when we arrived, and very cold. I enthusiastically kissed chilly cheeks before bouncing over to the start. Halfway through the race, it started to pour. Driving rain was soon accompanied by a network of lightning and loud thunder.
Soon as I finished, I searched the scant crowd for my husband, who looked miserable, and two young daughters, sobbing and shivering. In that moment I saw the true sum of all those other races to the people I cared about most. What I’d hoped was fun had become forced support for my ambitions.
Things are different now. My husband’s retired from the military. My daughters are grown. But I still never take for granted the impact my running has on everyone around me.