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Of Marathons and Marriage: Perseverance Is Key

secrets of a long and happy marriageLeah can be found at where she shares on enjoying the journey of her fit life. This post was originally featured there. 

I’ve always given a bit of advice to runner friends who’ve tied the knot. I’ve shared my thoughts on how making your marriage work has a lot in common with running a marathon.

Date Night and Newlyweds

My husband and I love a date-night celebration, and we were out on a Friday, dressed to the nines, in full empty nester foodie mode.

We were trying one of Austin’s amazing downtown restaurants, a sleekly modern place that serves a three-, five-, or seven-course dinner menu to diners seated around a u-shaped counter. Oh, how we love to eat good food. Even more, we love good food that is beautifully presented and paired with a yummy wine. Add to this the ability to talk to the talented team creating and plating said meal? Heaven.

When I said to the chef, “It’s all I can do not to pick up the plate and lick it clean,” a young man sitting to my left laughed and said, “Oh, go ahead – we won’t judge.” When his cute date smilingly complimented me on my dress, the proverbial door was open for conversation. So as the dessert chef presented them with a beautiful plate edged in a chocolatey “Congratulations!”, I boozily leaned over my delicious glass of white port to ask the beaming couple, “I’m being nosy I know, but what are you two celebrating?”

The 20-somethings (OK, maybe they were 30-somethings, but to our parental 50-something eyes, they looked awfully, sweetly young) happily shared that, just hours earlier, they’d married. The two were here because, at the start of their relationship, they’d had a date at the bar and vowed to come back one day for dinner. My heart melted at this romantic full circle, and we offered our sincere congratulations.

What Makes a Marriage Last?

My husband revealed that we’d been married for more than 30 years (if you count dating years, 35). And then they asked the “You’ve Been Together So Long” question:

What’s your advice for a successful marriage?

Giving a somewhat impish grin, hubby quickly tossed off a quip: “Apologize. Often.” They laughed. I scowled, chastising him for being flippant and a bit of a smartass. He responded with a breezy “Sorry!” (Ahem. Let’s blame the booze.)

I turned back to our seat-mates and said, with a shrug, “Just love each other.”

I wonder, though: Why have we lasted so long? Part of it, I’m sure, boils down to stubborn, dogged adherence to a promise. I take my word very, very seriously and, after all, what is marriage but a big, hairy promise? Honest answer? It’s a binding economic and legal contract, but we’ll set that less-than-romantic aspect aside for a moment.

That same stubborn, dogged committed approach is why I’ve succeeded at the marathon. Not that I’ve remotely won anything or run spectacularly fast times. No, I’ve simply spent years enjoying those 26.2 miles and continue to look forward to many more. And over the years, I’ve discovered that a marriage rolls out in a very similar manner.

How Marathon Miles Mirror Marriage

  • The first segment, about miles 1–6, are easy. Everybody starts off the line rarin’ to go. There’s excitement and joy in beginning a long journey. The world ahead looks good.
  • Those next miles, up to around mile 18, reflect a lot of variables: prep work done, mental focus, the right resources, and commitment. Outside factors crowd in, things beyond your control, such as weather and course conditions. A crucial point is determined — whether you’re strong enough to run your own race. Woe to those who lose sight of what works for them and make bad decisions, spurred on by the surrounding herd.
  • The old adage says a marathon is a 20-mile warm-up before a hard 10K. Those final 6.2 miles are when the truly sucky parts hit. Trust me; no matter how well the day seems to be going, exceptionally low marathon moments are lurking ahead. This is where you dig deep and find truth. Do you walk off at the first bad blister? Are you able to put aside temporary discomfort for the reward received for staying the course? Are you a whiner? Do you retreat, stoically, into your pain or crumple into a needy heap at the curb, awaiting support?
  • Because it’s never just about that one race, the marathon doesn’t end when you cross a finish line. Those 26.2 miles are one part of a bigger experience that shapes who you are. Do you embrace the accomplishment and look eagerly to what’s next? Or are you never satisfied, no matter the achievement? Will you throw in the towel after that first bad race?

A good runner logs miles of hard work, putting one determined foot in front of another and making the most of all forward progress. She appreciates the simple fact that she can run at all. And because it’s impossible to recognize a truly stellar day without knowing some terribly abysmal ones, a successful runner savors all aspects of the sport.

You have to enjoy the journey to have a good race.

Lynn - Encore Voyage

Sunday 10th of April 2016

Wow, Leah, what a delightful and inspirational post! And I think I've found another blogging soul sister. We will hit our 35th anniversary in May, love good food, beautifully prepared, and believe in that whole concept of perseverance! Loved your marathon description - think I'll lace up and hit the road! ~ Lynn

Leah Nyfeler

Monday 11th of April 2016

Thanks, Lynn, for your kind comments. You might want to put the Paris Marathon on your bucket list. We just got back -- a girlfriend and I ran the marathon and then Hubby and I toured Paris with our friends. It was magical. Currently in the process of writing up my race report now (you can read it at Enjoying the Journey, Happy running to you!

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