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Dr. J. on Running

For Better or For Worse

Help Your Spouse in the Long Run

Published September 28, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

I still remember the words, "to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to trust and respect, for faster or for slower, in injuries or in health, till marathon do us part." Yet, I did not expect to put them to the test so soon.

It was a crisp April morning. The sun broke through our bedroom window. I floated in a fuzzy state between sleep and consciousness. My wife rolled towards me and mumbled the word "marathon." Shocked out of my dreams into reality, I asked: "what?" "A marathon. I want to run another marathon."

Plans for a Fall marathon dominated our breakfast conversation. We surfed the web for a marathon 26 weeks away. The weekend of October 10 listed the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton. An easy car ride from home, a small field and a fast course featuring a net drop of 955 feet, our sights were set on Steamtown.

We started our preparation by taking stock of our fitness level. We had survived winter on a regimen of 4 milers and the occasional hour run. So, our first long run would be 8 miles, and we would build up from there a couple of miles every other week. When our long run reached a dozen miles, we would run them on alternate weekends, allowing the body to recover.

Next, we identified local long distance road races as fitness checkpoints. These included the Swamp Rat 10K in June, the Cazenovia 10-mile on the 4th of July and the Phelps 20K in August. Finally, we vowed to support each other's training, for better or for worse.

Half-way into our schedule, challenges in my work and in my knee reduced me to the role of cheerleader on the road to Steamtown. True to my vows, I planned her long runs, carted the water and provided advice and encouragement. This morning, I took my laptop for a 22-miler on the Erie Canal towpath that took us from Syracuse to Canastota.

So, as I type in between water stops, I dedicate this column to the husbands supporting their wives' marathon quests (one wife per reader, please), and put forth the following ten commandments:

I: Thou shall not give advice. You may escape with a stronger marriage and a healthier ego if you restrict your training comments to "looking good" and "right on pace."

II: Carry an ample supply of water bottles, sports drinks, bananas, cereal bars, toilet paper, diaper rash ointment and Vaseline. They will come in handy at mile 8.

III: Bring an extra change of clothes, yours not hers (remember the first commandment). This way, when she longs for a dry shirt at mile 12 you will look pretty good giving her your shirt.

IV: Do not time her run, and under no circumstance should you compute her splits. Long runs aim at increasing endurance. The pace is immaterial. Incidentally, do not bring along a grandfather clock, an hour-glass, a sundial or a calendar either.

V: Take along plenty of reading material, but do not recite the supermarket specials or the newspaper obituaries at mile 16.

VI: When she shows up with a kitten and leaves it in your care to continue her run, do not read loud to the kitten about running injuries, or show it ads with naked runners, lest the kitten runs away.

VII: Avoid a repeat of VI above by bringing along an SPCA-approved trap, a pet carrier, a baby seat, kitten food, puppy food, baby food, chicken food, pigeon food and fish food. You never know what you will be taking back home.

VIII: Carry along her favorite anti-inflammatory pain-killer and a bag of ice, and be prepared to listen to country music all the way back.

IX: Do not take pictures or videotape her right after a long run. Stick to verbal praise and treat her to breakfast at a neighborhood diner. Incidentally, turn a blind eye to the junk food that she orders: she has already burned it, I mean earned it.

X: At home, give her a full body rub and thoroughly massage her aching muscles. Hey, you never know!

Kamal Jabbour supported another long run and lived to write about it. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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