The role of the significant other in long-distance training is vital but under-recognized
Dear Husband –
Last weekend you woke me up at 4 a.m. You tapped me gently on the shoulder and whispered “Hey, it’s 4.”
“What? What’s wrong?” I stammered, squinting in the darkness to see if the there was smoke filling the house, or a child puking on our carpet
“It’s 4. It’s time for you to get up to get ready to run.”
“Why are you awake?” I muttered.
“I’m not, really. I set an alarm to make sure you got up.”
Just before I drifted off to sleep the night before, leaving you with two kids who were still awake and in need of some bedtime assistance, I made an offhand comment about how I didn’t want to sleep through my alarms. I mentioned that two people would be waiting for me to start running and I didn’t want to miss it. I had my phone alarms set, and a backup alarm, but you sensed my anxiety that I might sleep through them. So you set your alarm too – for a few minutes before mine – so you could be the one to wake me up.
“Good luck today,” you said, closing your eyes to go back to sleep.
I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon this coming October, but you didn’t. Over the past three years, I’ve trained and completed 5 half marathons, including one in New York and one in Las Vegas, in addition to my first full marathon that I ran locally. You didn’t sign up for any of those but you’ve endured all of the training.
You were here for every 4 a.m. wake-up, every early bedtime, every time I needed a nap after baking in the Florida sun during a long run, every headache, every blister, every injury, every tear, and every moment when I doubted myself and needed you to lift my spirits. You’ve helped me create training plans, and encouraged me to push a little harder during that training, and you’ve not said “I told you so” when I’ve overdone it (well, not too many times).
You weren’t at the finish line when I completed half marathons in Las Vegas or New York because you were home with our 5 children, keeping them safe and fed and happy so I could focus on the road in front of me without worry about what was happening back home. You won’t be in Chicago for the same reason. While it will make me a little sad to cross that finish line without you on the other side, I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to chase finisher medals in a sport where I’ll never be an Olympian, or earn a dime. I’m thankful that you understand why I run and why it makes me happy.
You don’t receive a medal at the end of any of my races, but you deserve one.
When I complete a 10, 15, or 20+ mile run, I post the details on Facebook and Instagram, and people “like” it and tell me I did a good job. They see the mental and physical fortitude that goes into that.
What they don’t see is you dealing with the bickering kids at home, fighting over the same toy in a house of 1,000 toys at 6 a.m. on a Saturday who then demand breakfast, and second breakfast, and cookies (even when you remind them gently that kids fighting at 6 a.m. on a Saturday don’t get cookies). They don’t see the stinky laundry I create that ends up on our bathroom floor, or the times I fall asleep on your shoulder during our quality post-bedtime moments (watching DVR’d Project Runway episodes) because my body can’t stay awake for another second.
They don’t see our shared bank account, debited for race entry fees, airplane tickets, hotel stays, and post-race meals. Those things are all part of the race experience – those things all impact you as much as me (if not more). It’s not just race weekend that you have to endure; it’s the months of training and hundreds of miles that lead up to those crowning achievements when I need you the most. You always come through for me.
So if I don’t say it enough, thank you for being there for every step of my long-distance journeys. I know I couldn’t do it without your complete support. Thank you for understanding why I do this – and being an integral part of the process.
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