marriage and marathons

Recently I’ve heard marriage likened to a marathon, which I find to be a fitting analogy considering my husband’s line of work. Both require hard work, dedication and persistence. They are both exhilarating and life affirming but can also be painful and intensely challenging. Moreover, they both have that 23rd-mile-bonk-potential, where both your mind and your body tell you that you can’t go any farther.

Invariably, in both marriage and marathons, you can hit that figurative wall and you fight an internal monologue filled with questions like, Why am I even here in the first place? Why is this important to me? And how on earth am I ever going to finish what I started?

Recently I’ve realized, from talking to other women and reading their blog posts on marriage, that this mid-marriage, 23rd-mile bonk is more common than not. I’ve also become acutely aware that it is not just reserved for marathons and marriages–it happens in nearly every situation we get ourselves into, be it big or small.

Just last week, my daughters and I embarked on a project to clean up and organize their “school” area of our house, (read: corner of our living room where we shove/store their coloring books, crayons, workbooks, pencils, school projects, rainbow looms, Easter candy, stickers, watercolors, LEGO directions, and you get the idea). My girls were charged with going through their bins of school work and creating “keep or chuck” piles.

After 10 minutes, my five year old yelled, “Mom, this is awful! I don’t want to do this anymore!”

Welcome to life, baby girl.  

“Well, Lex,” I replied, looking around at all massive pile of art projects and sheets her precious Kindergarten handwriting. “I know, it’s not that fun, but, we have to finish what we started. I’ll help you and it won’t be that bad if we work on it together.”

That simple situation with my five year old reminded me that there is almost always a point at which we question why we started on a particular path, whether it be a marriage, a marathon, a career, or even a small craft or cleaning project.

So, what do we do when we get to that inevitable bonking point? For me, clearly assessing the situation becomes difficult because my mind plays tricks on me and I tend to forget the reason I started down the journey in the first place.

And usually, when I get to that point, in any undertaking, my initial reaction is to just give-up. Cut my losses and bounce. But then, I assess the situation further and ask myself, What will be the repercussions if I don’t see this through? Will I be letting myself down? Will I be letting anyone else down? Does it really matter if I cross that finish line or complete this painstaking craft project?

Then, I picture myself completing said task, crossing that finish line, and imagine the feeling of accomplishment and pride that I will ultimately feel. Usually, that thought allows me to summon my inner “you can do it” woman, and more often than not, I kick my own ass into gear and pull through. I clear those mental and/or physical hurdles and cross that finish line, and, more often than not, I’m glad that I did.

However, there are also times that cutting my losses and heading towards a different finish line is a better solution.

It’s the 23rd mile and I have no idea where my legs will take me next.



  1. 1
    theresa says:

    That was amazing and now I’m crying.

  2. 2
    Stefanie says:

    Love this. Beautiful.

  3. 3
    Sean says:

    Upon review of my life, it seem like I have lived at the 23rd mile bonk point for almost all of it. But that’s because it’s so much easier to remember the hits and even easier to forget the misses in life.

    I will say that at this point in life, I have found that the oh so green grass on the other side, isn’t as green as we thought it was. Whether you cut your loses or dig in your heels and tough it out, you are always left with yourself in the end. You can’t hide from yourself, which is the only constant in our lives.

    So I’ve taken some advice in life that was more observed than given.

    1) Embrace the Suck.
    2) Control what you control and don’t let the thing you can’t control control you.
    3) Ask yourself More Cowbell or Less Cowbell
    4) And realize that even if it’s just you that thinks something, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy.
    5) It could always be worse.
    6) Trust your instincts, because you have to live with yourself afterwards.
    7) In the end, just try and look as good as you can while doing it, even if you are the only person that thinks you look good doing it.

  4. 4
    Kalpana says:

    My gawd Sean. When did you get so wise? Mary, hang in there. Know that you have tons of support as you navigate this treacherous path.

  5. 5
    Haylz says:

    The answer is always MORE cowbell, for certain. Sean does have some very wise words. I’m there to run with you Mary. With a wine glass in hand, of course! xo

  6. 6
    Sondra says:

    Hang in there, lady. No one but you can see your situation so take it one day at a time and focus on doing things that make you happy. xoxoxo

  7. 7

    I have found myself at the 23rd mile a few times in my life and it is a hard spot to be in. Just remember that you have an amazing support group cheering you on from the side lines and will be there at the end of what ever direction you choose.

    Also remember that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Such a cliche, yes so painfully true. It came down for me to make the choices that would make my daughter proud of me and give her the best example of who she should strive to be.

    Need a giggle … just imagine me on the side like with pom poms cheering you on!

  8. 8
    Danielle says:

    Is it just me or is the 23rd mile also uphill? I know you’ll tackle this marathon and pass that finish line. You’re a strong woman who will succeed no matter what.

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