Whole Parenting Family

On Encouraging My Husband to Run a Marathon


Watching my beloved train for a marathon that is THIS WEEKEND! since April? May? means I’ve cheered, encouraged, cried in frustration, jumped up and down for joy, and been schooled in stamina and sacrifice.

It also means I’ve learned to make space. Make space for him to do something he’d love, even though it’s not always been convenient or fun for me. Where’s the sacrifice and growth for me if it were easy for me to encourage and support him in his training? If it’s easy, I’m probably not learning much. And this past 5 months or so have not been easy for either of us, but we’ve both learned sooooooo much.

AA has been a serious runner forever. As a middle schooler & high schooler, he broke and set all records for his long distances. He was asked to run for a fabulous college. He lived, slept, ate, breathed running for a very long time. In the decade between his peak collegiate running and us having kids, he ran regularly. Add kid. Add long hours high stress job. Add more kids. Running had fallen to the wayside.

Despite the wife encouraging and nagging, it took him finding his own visceral need for it again to bring forth: marathon training! I listened as he gauged and researched and poured over his laptop for races near by and far from the Twin Cities before he landed on the big TC Marathon. When he announced he thought he’d sign up to run for it, I almost shrieked with joy.

DO IT. Just do it! You will be so so happy you did.

I knew he needed the happiness hormones that running releases. I knew he needed to go back to a pursuit he loved, something wholly of his own in his own time and space and place. To me, it seemed a no-brainer. Run! I’m totally cool with covering any time you’re gone and watching the kids. Or so I thought.

After he crafted his running schedule which consisted of daily runs, I started to see the reality of the daily run. Every day. It means you run every day. Even when you’re tired or your back is off (and your wife wants you to rest it). Even when it’s rainy or you were up with the baby. Every single day.

I’d catch myself asking when he was running the next day and then . . . exhale a big dramatic sigh for how long that would be and how long he’d be gone and how tired was. And then I’d try to rectify it and say something supportive and cheery. Somedays I was more convincing than others. I was still harboring this selfishness in a way. This secret resentment he was doing something he loved.

Somehow during this long training he still managed to help night wean the baby, get up a million times with the reluctant older sleepers, run 20 miles four Sundays in a row and still help with the kids those days, go on a family vacation, hold down the fort while I went to an out-of-town wedding, clean up at night around the house, push hard at work, and give me the occasional foot rub. He never stopped parenting or partnering despite pushing his body and mind to the max. He worked attentively to ensure his running didn’t put additional burdens on me, that he could help. He never complained; I’m obviously not that saintly.

One day I erupted. It was late summer. He’d just returned home from a night run (mostly he ran in the morning), and I’d spent the late evening playing whack-a-mole with each of the kids alternating who didn’t want to fall asleep the most–instead of the evening of work I’d planned for. Half-sewn leggings littered my studio floor, and an unattended Uptown Funk was on repeat on YouTube.

I erupted saying something along the lines of I need something for ME. I need to do something that’s for myself for me. You are off running and enjoying that for you and what’s for me? Where’s my enjoyment?!? I want to have fun too. WAAAHHHH.

“I want to have fun, too.” Wow. What is this? The sixth grade end of the year water balloon party? But this realization was a turning point for me. I could either play martyr wife or I could acknowledge it was hard being a marathon-spouse, and then pick my own damn activity to enjoy.

I could take care of myself, too, if I gave myself permission.

So for every 4:35 am awakening with the baby, hearing my husband just out the door for his run, and my chagrin that I couldn’t roll over and tap AA that the baby was awake, and for every Sunday morning when he rolled in from his hours+ run right around when the kids were eating breakfast and I insisted he put his feet up and rest, I learned that taking care of yourself sometimes looks like hard work and can require sacrifices from your loved ones. Again, making space and then being in that space.

Taking care of yourself by doing a healthy, life-giving activity that you love means you’re going to be a happier and more balanced person.

We parents of young kids cannot continue as exhausted zombies. We must make the space for each other to find that life-giving activity, that pursuit alongside our work and families. Whatever it is, I hope you’ve found it for you and I hope you’re willing to sacrifice for your loved one to find it for himself or herself. I had to fall down along the way and be a big baby about it–hopefully you’re beyond that.

Thanks for reading this ramble & please offer a prayer, a positive thought, a beam of love for my speedy amazing husband on Sunday morning at 8am because he’s going to be killing it on the course!



  1. Patty on October 1, 2015 at 9:55 am

    You’re a grand wife….prayers and good vibes he is feeling better and does awesome!!!!

    I do my first half in just over 2 weeks, it helps for sure when you’ve got a loving spouse cheering you on 😉

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Girl, you got this!!! Thank you, friend.

  2. Laurel on October 1, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Marathon training is no joke….even for the supporting spouse! It sounds like you’ve been incredibly supportive, and we all have our bad days even in the supporting role. Just keep on keeping on with your cheers!

    We’re cheering for him out West! Rock your run, AA!! 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Thank you so much for your cheers!!!!

  3. Lisa Jones on October 1, 2015 at 11:33 am

    My husband will be running his 3rd full marathon next weekend in Chicago and then his 4th in January in Houston. I read your post and totally get it. It’s hard sometimes. As much as I love that my husband runs and is accomplishing a dream of his, it’s taken time for me to get used to his schedule and the time commitment. Seeing him accomplish that dream makes it all so worth it. And being there to cheer to him on at mile 22 when he hits that wall is my joyful duty. I could not be more proud of him even if I do grumble sometimes about how training dictates a part of our schedule. Best of luck and many prayers for your husband on Sunday!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      WOW! I’m so impressed. And you’re a great example for me. I’m gonna be there at mile 22 too!! Thank you for your prayers & thoughts!

  4. Lindsay on October 1, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    John still talks about what an amazing runner AA was in high school and college. He was legendary. He said they all loved watching him run. You both will be on fire come Sunday. Way to go!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      oh, Lindsay. You are so so kind. This is so touching for both of us.

  5. Laura @ Mothering Spirit on October 3, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I love all of this. Your honesty, your willingness to stick it out and be a supportive spouse even when it hurts (and even when you fail). I really needed to read this today. And this is beautiful: “I learned that taking care of yourself sometimes looks like hard work and can require sacrifices from your loved ones. Again, making space and then being in that space.”

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      THANK YOU!! It’s been brutal but beautiful.

  6. Megan on October 3, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Oh man. This is exactly how I react when my husband does anything. I feel like such a whiney selfish brat! I caught myself going down that road the other night when he reminded me that he had a KoC meeting (and today when he helped clean up the church) and then thought, “no, this is good. I need to celebrate the fact that he is spending his free time this way.” But it’s definitely a challenge to get to that place and stay in it. So I can just imagine how much more with a long and in-depth committment like a marathon. And this is a good reminder for me to get off my toosh and schedule in some time for me, too, even when it feels like just one more thing to do. So thanks! I have been praying and will continue to very hard today & tomorrow, especially that he was able to kick that cold and it is a rewarding experience for all involved!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      I’m a total brat. And get something for you on the calendar! I haven’t actually done that yet, but once I do, I know I’ll feel better!

  7. Suzy on October 4, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I think I understand what point you are trying to make. As an older mom, I want to send you to keep making sacrifices for your husband. But also, please do so in the context of your current state in life. At home mom with several young children. Encourage your husband to be healthy and run if that is his passion, but there is no reason he needs to spend hours a day running or marathon training while you have small children and he already works out the home. Consider too that his body needs to last another sixty years! I think we all feel invincible in our twenties, and it isn’t until we hit our early forties that we realize what body parts are broken and wish we had taken better care of our joints in our twenties and thirties. I guess you’ll probably poo poo my advice, but pray about it? We can be fit and healthy within our young family life without being a martyr mom and marathon training. And yes, give yourself a break with other moms! Or alone!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 4, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Suzy! Glad you’re here with an older mom’s perspective. Thanks for the tips.

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