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Member's Musings

Justifying Running to a Non-Running Spouse

My wife is not a runner. Consequently, there are many things she doesn’t quite understand about my commitment to something that seems to her so… how shall I put this nicely?… completely stupid, insane, difficult, painful, time-consuming, expensive, pointless and otherwise wholly unjustifiable.

In her defense, she’s gotten a lot more supportive over the years. We’re down to mostly eye rolls and heavy sighs when I tell her I have to run, but every once in a while the old questions bubble back up. This is especially true deep in marathon training when even I question exactly why I’m getting up at quarter-to-six on a freezing cold morning to run hills.

At night, as I set out my sneakers for the morning, my wife – let’s call her Scarlett Johansson for this hyper reality – looks surprised and asks, “You’re running again tomorrow?”
“But you ran today.”
“I run four to five times a week. You know that.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I know,” I say.
“Don’t you get bored?”
“So what’s the point?”
“To run faster.”
“It’s not like you’re going to make the Olympics.”
I’m 50 and my fastest mile time is slower than a true marathoner’s race pace.
“D’uh,” I say. Not my sharpest comeback, but it’s late and I’m tired.
“What do you even think about when you’re running?”
“Nothing, really.” That’s not quite true, but when I reflect back on the last few runs, I can’t recall a deep thought beyond, it’s cold, I’m thirsty, if I sing that chorus one more time I’m going to shoot myself.
“Do you get a high from running?”
“No, but I get cranky if I don’t run.”
“Maybe you get cranky because you’re burning the candle at both ends and are always exhausted.”
The thought has occurred to me. I make a noncommittal face – could be. I take out my book, hoping to end the discussion, but I can’t get it open fast enough.
“You’re going to destroy your knees.”
“Hasn’t happened, yet.”
Again, a bit infantile, but does anyone have a great response to this? I’d say that knees are like tax credits – you gotta use ‘em or lose ‘em, but I do know a hell of a lot of runners who just happen to have had knee surgery. Coincidence? Doubtful.
“What exactly are you trying to achieve with all your running?”
I want to tell her I’m trying to challenge myself. I want to improve at something, even if that something is relatively meaningless in the big picture. I want to explain that I like to succeed for the sake of succeeding, but that sounds vain or OCD – neither of which helps my cause. I go high-brow instead.
“I’m trying to achieve grace,” I say.
Good one, I think.
“Whatever,” she says.
Touché, Scar.
I make a big show of opening my book and pretend to be engrossed immediately. (Thankfully it’s not a book about running lest I elicit another eye roll.) My sudden immersion in “Avoiding Power Struggles with Your 5-Year-Old” is meant to suggest we have completed our “I don’t get it” conversation for the evening. Like the miles I log, these conversations must be endured more than enjoyed and are a necessary evil if I want to earn another PR come race day.

But as much as I want to convince my dear, sweet, smokin’ hot wife SJ of the unassailable logic of hard training, I must admit there are times I agree with everything she says. My only hope is that these moments are fleeting and never fully take root.

Jo Bear – that’s what I like to call her – is right. I’m never going to make the Olympics. My abilities aren’t going to change so appreciably over time that my life will truly be different. Running doesn’t get me high 99% of the time.

Why can’t I just run 15-20 miles a week at an easy pace? Is it just so I don’t give Larry Hollander the satisfaction of someone finally taking his advice? I get injured every marathon cycle from doing too much. Is that really the best course of action at my (or any) age? Couldn’t I just enjoy being outside and get some fresh air in my lungs? Could ScarScar – dare I say it – actually be right?

I stare at my book, letting the lines blur, thinking about a pursuit I’ve now chased long enough I no longer know why I pursue it. Has it become an addition? A crutch? A disease? My gaze drifts off and I fantasize about chucking my Garmin and all my training logs in the trash. I smile at the thought then spy the clock radio – 12:15.

Crap, it’s late. I have to get some sleep. I’ve got to run hills tomorrow or my friends will get faster than me. And I can’t let that happen, now, can I?

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