Running and Marriage are Essentially Destructive

I’m pretty confident my wife thought I was a putz when we first met.

She tells me so.

I won her respect when I started running at age 26, young enough to survive running. We married when I was 27, old enough to know better.

A lot of people think running and marriage will make them healthier.

In my experience, both are essentially destructive.

Take running.

First, peel off a dead toe nail.

Second, consider this: when we run, we take the entire weight of our body, add momentum, and force our knees and feet to absorb that impact — on cement, if we live in the concrete jungle — thousands of times in succession.

Overweight? You just increased the weight of that impact.

When I first started running, my goal was to run a 10 kilometer race. For reference, a marathon is about 42 kilometers.

I wore out one pair of shoes in training, but I had reached the point that I could run eight kilometers in a row without stopping. Feeling healthy, I quickly went out to buy a new pair of shoes. Unfortunately, they did not offer the support that I didn’t know I needed.

Within a month, my knees were giving me terrible pain. Just walking home was agony.

I took a break for two months, bought new shoes, and slowly added distance to my weekly run.

This was one of the worst times in my life and I quickly discovered that it was not uncommon for people hoping to regain their fitness to actually damage themselves. Those looking to lose weight might be better off on an elliptical trainer, cycling, or swimming. I now do all of those things, but I still engage in self-destruction at least once a week.

For me, running is no longer about losing weight. It’s about getting into this mental zone where the whiny part of the brain shuts down, reducing me to animated meat and bone.

It takes time, but this process can be transforming. If nothing else, I feel more confident.

And my wife no longer thinks I’m a putz.

I hope.

If running is grinding my bones to dust, marriage is corroding my psyche.

Some people like to dress this up, arguing that marriage is a like a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. Together, what can’t the Naboo and the Gungans achieve? Wedding officials also like to discuss trees growing side by side.

How about our relationship with benevolent digestive bacteria?

When I go to weddings and hear about the healthy, growing trees in the pastures and the woods and the birds singing, I’m not surprised to read about high divorce rates in countries where it’s socially acceptable to split.

Weddings offer us an escapist fantasy. The reality of marriage often feels like sacrifice and compromise: a constant sublimation of our individual needs for the needs of a collective identity sometimes dressed up as an “equal partnership.”

Say what you like, the “I” is slowly being taken over by the “we.”

Sometimes I miss being “just me,” which shouldn’t be surprising since our culture sends us unending messages about the importance of exploring our individuality.

Be defiant.

Be unique.

Be an individual.

(And get married.)

Still, like running, marriage does offer both challenge and transformation. It may not have anything to do with trees, but it’s nearly as important as digestive bacteria.

If you’re thinking about running or marriage, do so with your eyes open.

And don’t forget:

There are no finish lines.

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