There is a delicate balance when your husband is also your training partner. Robert and I have been working on that balance since we started dating. We went on our first run together a few weeks into our relationship and ever since then we have been learning how to walk the fine line of knowing when to push each other, when to be there for each other, and when to be the bad guy.
I am by nature a klutz. I fall a lot, trip over things, and always find random black and blue marks on my arms and legs without a clue of how I got them. This is not a problem when I am in the house or my classroom, but when we are on a trail on the precarious edge of a mountain it can sometimes be an issue. I drive Robert crazy on the trails because I average a decent fall every few runs. That number has decreased drastically since we started trail running- it got to the point in the past that I swore he was going to have a heart attack behind me. Today on our run along the trails of Lookout Mountain I got into a fight with a root and almost nosedived off the edge. Robert freaked out and loudly told me (of course he would never yell) to slow down before I killed myself. Now in previous years I would have had a snarky reply about how if I continuously slow down I’m never going to improve as a trail runner, but I simply told him that my intention was not actually to face plant. After another half mile I told him that I loved him, too. See I know that he was not trying to get mad at me and I know his intentions are not to sabotage my running ambitions. All he saw was his ADORABLE wife careening towards her doom and he got scared. Spouse trumps training partner. I cannot be mad about it and have to try to slow down so as to not cause him panic every time he watches me catch myself as we descend through wet leaves or ascend on a cliff with jagged sides of rocks that my head comes dangerously close to smashing into because I sometimes forget to pay attention.
That is a very specific example, but it depicts my point well. At the beginning of our relationship we put the training partner first. This meant pushing each other, sometimes too hard, and supporting each other even when bringing each other back to reality would have been a smarter play. Putting the training partner first also meant being more selfish as a runner. When I am worried about my training before my spouse that means I do not listen to him when he is worried that I am doing something that is risking injury or running a route that makes him uncomfortable when he is not there beside me. It means he pushes himself until his ankle gives out and then he cannot walk the next day, which makes him miserable, which leads to me being miserable (I DO NOT LIKE BEING MISERABLE). Robert knows me better than anyone because he is my husband, so not heeding his warnings and making him worried, especially because he has been running a bit longer than I have, is just selfish.
Now I am making it seem like running with your spouse means you are going to be held back and limited because pushing each other to your limits means risking your future together. Please do not read this as that. Running is the core of our marriage. It is our time together that I depend on each week because I know I get Robert to myself for hours on end, sometimes we talk and sometimes we just listen to the music of each other’s cadence of footsteps and breath. There’s a magic that happens on the trails that we are so blessed to share together each time we go for a run. Having my spouse as my training partner also means I have the person who knows me better than anyone else there beside me (well, typically behind me because if he leads he unknowingly races ahead!) when I hit a mental wall or a physical challenge. Today Robert exemplified this and inspired this post. After about a mile and a half (which felt like seven) of an uphill climb an hour and a half into our run I was exhausted and did not want to be out there anymore. I was questioning my fitness levels and training because of my fatigue and he responded in the EXACT way I needed. A little pep talk and then silence for me to work through it on my own. I’m blessed because not only does Robert know everything that inspires me, everything I’ve overcome, and all of my goals, he also knows my personality which enables him to be supportive in a way that “just a training partner” would never be able to accomplish.
We also have the advantage of not having to worry about why the other does not want to stay out late on Friday nights or complain about the alarm being set so early each morning. We spend too much on our running nutrition and sneakers (THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE CALLED, NOT TENNIS SHOES, I DO NOT CARE IF I LIVE IN THE SOUTH NOW). We watch documentaries on Netflix about running and sometimes go to races simply to watch other people achieve their goals. We share a passion that makes it easier to love what we do because we do not have to explain the ridiculous amount of time we dedicate to it. I still will say that I will not support Robert ever running the Barkley Marathon for fear of losing my husband to those woods, but I will support him running pretty much any distance he sets out to conquer. The last awesome part about having your spouse as your training partner is being there on the sidelines to watch them achieve their goal. It’s heartbreaking when they don’t, but the satisfaction of crewing for your spouse and seeing them break barriers they thought existed is beyond words. Filling up a water bottle, salt sticks, and replenishing nutrition before checking for blisters you may have to pop for your beloved and then seeing them start off again while you wait at the next aid station for another hour or two may not seem exciting or glamorous, but after seeing first hand the dedication it took to get to that point it makes it so much more meaningful. At the same time having Robert crew my last marathon for me is what kept me going at a PR pace in ridiculous heat. I knew the faster I went the sooner I saw him again, and having him as a checkpoint and seeing his pride radiate from his smile was more motivation than I could ever need.
Sometimes having your spouse as your training partner can suck. Robert and I rarely ever get into it, but when we do it is almost always on a long run over something trivial that we huff and puff about for about a quarter of a mile until we both realize the ridiculousness of the situation. There are weekends when I wish we could just get in the car and go on an unplanned rendezvous, but then I realize one of us is not on a bounce week so it would not work with the training schedule. There are definitely things that are more complicated because we train together. There are times when one of us is hurting or questioning whether to go for a run in the rain or fog, try a new route, train when were not sure if were injury free, and countless other things. Oftentimes we will respond to each other with, “well do you want your wife/husband, or your training partner?” They are two different things, which we always have to remember for ourselves when we are trying to seek support but also when we are giving it. I think the balance comes from not being selfish while in training. Robert never leaves me behind. No matter how many times I stop to walk a hill that he could run and I tell him to just go on because I know he has double the miles I do that day and I just want him to be able to get them in. Sometimes if Robert is feeling great and I know I am just being a hinderance, I’ll cut my run short because I know he will never just leave me and I love him for that, but I would not be a good training partner if I let that hold him back on a consistent basis. Robert takes my used gel packs and carries them for me because I hate carrying trash in my pack and feeling sticky. When one of us is struggling with hydration the other sacrifices and makes sure that we cut our intake as much as possible so the other has what they need to get through. I have the best training partner in the world, but at the end of the day spouse will ALWAYS trump training partner like lizard will always poison Spock. It’s taken us a while to get to this balance and there are days when we “request” the training partner and not the spouse, but I think in the back of our minds we both know how ridiculous that sounds. We both know that at the end of the day our training partner can be pushed aside, but our spouse is always there at the forefront ready to support each other beyond a reasonable doubt and give us reality checks of what is truly important when we lose sight of it. So maybe balance isn’t the right way to describe it, because it really isn’t even, one always beats out the other. It is more like learning to become more selfless as both the runner and the training partner and being able to balance those two roles alongside your spouse.