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In my heart I already knew. I had seen the signs too many times before. She was losing weight. Dressing differently. Eating differently. “Brunch with the girls,” now started at 6 a.m. and would go until noon. When she was home she would be tired and distracted.

Checking the browser history confirmed my fears. Not Tinder. Not Ashley Madison. Far worse: Strava. She was training for a marathon. Again. Yet again I would be a widower to those 26.2 miles.

It’s a challenge to be the partner to someone whose hobby regularly takes up more than 20 hours a week. It’s easy to become resentful. Yet resentment is relationship cancer. I quickly learned that after the 10th marathon. If you are on the same treadmill as me, I offer a little advice from an experienced marathon widower.

First, understand you are dealing with an addict. I will use the definition, “someone who repeats a pattern of behaviour despite it doing harm to themselves or others.” I’ve been at enough finish lines to attest that pain is part of the bargain. I’ve been in a couple “Did Not Finish” medical tents, too.

Yet the dragon will be chased. It will begin with “trying one.” That will become a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon, the Holy Grail. It won’t end there, however, perhaps the Big Six should be the target … run all six of the World Marathon Majors. Then there is the clock. The ultimate chase is the ever more elusive “PB” or personal best. Since the distance never changes, time is the ultimate enemy.

Second, do not think that as your partner begins to run faster that less time will be expended training. Quite the opposite. A professional coach will bespoke tailor a training plan. Better add yoga to stay flexible, and strength training to ward off injury. Track workouts. Data analysis. Tweak the diet (we have seen no carb, carb load, pescatarian, high protein etc etc). Sleep management.

Third, give them space. This is for you as much as them. Inviting a training group over for a postrun meal is not a barrel of laughs. They will be sweaty and exhausted. Immediately all will commence with the “strava prayer.” Heads bowed over phones to immediately examine how the app tracked their run. When they do finally start speaking it will be a language foreign to all but the initiated. Cadence, stride length, negative splits, fartlek, carbon plates will be discussed earnestly and with great seriousness. Hard pass.

Fourth, strongly consider your strategy for race day. For local races you can/should/want to be at the finish line. Have a treat in hand and more food than you could imagine in the fridge at home. The same goes for out-of-town races if they are running solo. Your support is needed and deserved.

The race will likely be in one of the world’s great cities. You will not be seeing the great sights these cities have to offer. Lights out will be 9 p.m. in order to maintain optimal sleep hygiene. The food will be bland and highly nutritious and wine is a ludicrous proposition. The highlight of these prerace days, be it New York or London or Tokyo, will be the race package pickup and vendor fair. I don’t know how much you know about pronation, supplements or leak-proof underwear but the answer is less than you imagined and 10x what you need.

Ah, race day. You will be awoken obscenely early. Nervous energy abounds. Don’t speak. You can only do damage. You are less important at this moment than the hotel toilet paper or the instant oatmeal. Anything beyond “good luck” is entering a minefield. There is no upside and much to lose.

The race will begin. You will have four hours to kill (well, 3:35 target). If there is a worse spectator sport than a large marathon, I haven’t seen it. The throngs of humanity are unbelievable and if you are very lucky you will catch a fleeting glimpse of your loved one. To be seen by your partner is like winning the lottery.

Postrace there will be much emotion, positive or negative. Even more discussion of what went right/wrong. A celebratory meal and an exhausted collapse by 9 p.m. The next day involves more postmortem, this time while limping.

Lastly: the homecoming. Like any addict, they will rationalize. They will lie to themselves “that was my last.” Then the memories of the pain will fade like the lactic acid in their legs. Eventually the cycle of training will restart.

Through all of this, the marathon widower will also hit new PBs. Resentment and jealousy will be replaced by admiration and respect. An appreciation of the physical and mental discipline required to finish the race. You will feel the joys and disappointments. You will feel the pride of your partner’s accomplishments. Perhaps even some degree of responsibility.

Just remember: The rhythm and predictability of the process is your friend. Take time for your own pursuits, particularly in the fallow month postrace. Enjoy it, savour it, act selfishly. It won’t last.

Tom Kehoe lives in Toronto.

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