December 12 2017
Meet Rhonda-Marie and Steven Parke, two ultrarunners who discovered their love for each other through running.
One mother runner draws amazing parallels between marathoning and the marathon of a marriage.
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 that finish is the hardest work you’ve ever done—but hopefully, it’s also the most rewarding. Anyone who says otherwise has not been married long enough or is simply not being honest.
When I got engaged at the age of 24, then married right before turning 26, I really had no idea what I was committing to. I had been with my then boyfriend for a couple of years before we got engaged—but really, what do you know at that age? 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 and glory from running 26.2 and getting the post-race bling hung around our neck when we are done. 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.
Related: Running And Marriage
What I learned at mile 16 of my marriage is that it’s constant, continual work. You can’t skip a couple weeks of running and 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 pull me off the 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 later in the race are minimal, but not totally gone. You might 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 okay 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 a decision 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, or the experience that you gained. Is a 19-year marriage a failure? Not if you gave it everything you had. I think that’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 finish 26.2 and get to that finish line. 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.
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As for my marriage, the first 16 miles have involved many moves, as we’ve went east to west across the U.S. It’s created three kind-hearted children that, at times, had parents who worked in relay rather than in unison. It’s entailed plenty of laughter, tears, and laughter through tears. It’s involved two 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. I’ve grown as a person and experienced the rewards of putting in the time, working through injuries, and enjoying an amazing journey so far—’til death do us part. I’m old and wise enough to know that feeling strong at mile 16 doesn’t mean the unexpected can’t happen before mile 17. But I also know this: If I am ever going to have the chance of crossing the death-do-us-part finish line, I’m with a non-running partner who is just as committed, if not more so, than I am. He knows exactly how to pace me to the finish line when life throws me a tough mile that might affect my training plan.
Paria Hassouri first started running in March 2012 at the age of 38 with the goal of running her first half marathon. Running subsequently transformed her life, and she is training to run her first full marathon next year. She is a pediatrician mom of three and has her own blog, Mom On The Runsanity.