Marriage the Marathon
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T. S. Eliot
Every year at this time, I start reflecting on this journey of marriage, and the endurance it has taken to make it to another anniversary…. Marriage is the marathon with an unknown finish line. You enter it with the hope that “til death do us part” will be the finish tape you break, but you never really know when it will be over. And trying to make it to “til death do us part” is the hardest work you’ve ever done…anyone who says otherwise has not been married long enough or is not being honest. But hopefully, it’s also the most rewarding.
When I got engaged at the age of 24, and then married a couple of months before turning 26, I really had no idea what I was committing to. I had been with my then boyfriend and now husband for a couple of years before we got engaged, but really, what do you know at that age. And maybe that’s for the better. Maybe none of us would sign up for a marathon if we had a glimpse of what going for an 18 mile training run actually feels like. We like the admiration of saying we are going for 26.2, and getting the post-race bling of a medal around our neck. But we have no idea of the physical and mental toll that it will take on us. And while we imagine the runner’s high of crossing a finish line, you can’t know the emotion until you’ve put in the miles.
What I know at mile 16 into my marriage, is that it’s constant continual work. You can’t skip a couple weeks of runs and then hope to pick up where you were supposed to be in the training timeline. I know that although I’ve made it to mile 16 without a great enough injury to take me off-course, I can’t take it for granted or assume that there won’t be one at mile 17 or 22. I know that with the proper time investment and nourishment, the chances of major injury down the line are lower but that’s notguaranteed. I know that you can have minor injuries, and sometimes major ones, and use therapy, be it physical or mental to work through them.
I know from watching other marriages and marathons, that some injuries are too great to push through. That there are times when if the pain is too much, it’s ok to head for the medical tent at mile 19 and not make it back into the race; give yourself a chance to heal before you make decisions about whether you’ll enter another marathon in the future. Does leaving at mile 19 mean that you failed? I don’t think so. It doesn’t negate the training and the miles that you put in, the experience that you gained. Is a 19 year marriage a failure? Not if you gave it everything you had. I think it’s pretty damn successful. Because every mile and every year changed you and made you grow, turning you into the person that you are.
As for the LA marathon that I plan to run next year, I know that I am putting in the time and the training needed to have the best chance of getting to the finish line at 26.2. I’m doing my best to avoid major injury that would make me need to pull out all together; I’m willing to drag myself across that finish line if needed.
As for my marriage, the first 16 miles have involved many moves as we’ve progressed from East to West across the U.S. It’s created 3 kind-hearted children that have at times needed to have parents who are working in relay rather than in unison. It’s entailed plenty of laughter, tears, and laughter through tears. It’s involved 2 running partners that have learned that they have to trust and allow each other to have their own individual journey and race in order to be able to support each other to stay on-course together.
I know that at mile 16, I’m more committed than I was at mile 1, to make it to the finish line of “til death do us part”, as I’ve grown as a person and experienced the rewards of putting in the time and working through injuries for what’s been an amazing journey so far. I’m old enough, wise enough, to know that feeling strong at mile 16 doesn’t mean that unexpected major injury can’t happen before I even hit mile 17. But I also know, that if I am ever going to have the chance of crossing “til death do us part,” I’m with a non-running partner who is just as committed if not more so than I am, who knows exactly the support that I need when life throws me a tough mile, to pace me through to the finish line.
*This was originally published on 5/11/15. A slightly edited version of this post was published on Women’s Running Magazine shortly after going up on the blog. Their title is “Why Marriage Is The Ultimate Marathon.”