Eventually, here you come. With a cheer and a wave, your loved one sends you on your way before finding a good spot near the finish line where she or he can cheer you in. The reward is a sweaty, gross hug. Then it’s off to breakfast, where your partner can listen to a blow-by-blow recap that lasts almost as long as the actual event.
Instead of complaining, your partner keeps you grounded. She’ll giggle when you cut your legs shaving and complain about ingrown hairs. He’ll laugh at your silly little shorts with the funny diaper. She’ll oh-la-la at your Speedos. He’ll tell you that you smell like chlorine at best and stinky feet at worst. And while she'll ask you how your run went, she'll also yell at you for dripping sweat onto the kitchen floor and for trying to kiss her before you shower.
An athlete races alone. But having someone there, right outside the barrier, is better than any gel pack. Once, I bonked during a race. I came in to transition and nothing in my body wanted to go on. It was a small, local race and my wife was able to talk to me across the gate. She told me she loved me, and gave me the encouragement I needed to get back on the course. So maybe I'm wrong. A lucky athlete is never alone.
And if you're really lucky—extremely lucky—you might even infect your partner just a little. Someday you might come home from training to a loved one who says, “You know, I think I might like to walk this 5K coming up. I'm not running, but I think walking might be fun.” At which point you very gently encourage, careful not to scare the fledgling athlete away.
Before you know it another 5K shows up, then a 10K. Always walking, but that's OK. Eventually, if you play your cards right, you'll be able to say, “Honey, there is a splash and dash biathlon coming up. How about we do it as a relay where I swim and you walk? Not for time, but for fun.”
Few things are cooler than handing off a timing chip to your significant other and cheering them across the line. Afterward you get to wear your matching goofy race shirts to breakfast where you both can rehash every step of the race together.
If endurance athletes are crazy, what does that make the people who love them? Patience and understanding incarnate, with a little crazy mixed in as well.
Sign up for your next race.