PUMPING IRONY: 5K Training or Marital Bliss: Can You Have It All?

Saturday’s balmy weather presented a conundrum: walk or run? And which would make my marriage stronger?

Saturday morning brought some unseasonably balmy weather to town, so My Lovely Wife announced she would head over to Lake Nokomis for a walk in the afternoon. My first thought was that this would be a great opportunity for me to lace up my sneakers and get in a little practice run before Wednesday’s Commitment Day 5K. MLW would walk her usual mile or so circuit around the swampy west end of the lake while I would lope in a leisurely manner around the entire body of water, a distance of almost precisely 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). Then we’d rendezvous back at the car — bicycling being out of the question at this time of year — and head over to one of our favorite local bistros for a beverage or two.

That was my intention, anyway.

Or at least I think it was.

But I had read a piece in the newspaper that morning about how married couples can strengthen their relationship by doing things together, and it reminded me that I very seldom go on walks with MLW. In fact, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I had gone on a walk with her. This made me question whether I was doing all I could do to strengthen our relationship. Then I recalled that MLW never actually invites me to join her on walks because I tend to walk too fast, which made me think that maybe she liked going on walks mostly because I didn’t go with her. And that got me to thinking that maybe her going on walks by herself was just her way of strengthening our relationship.

Just FYI: MLW and I have been married for 33 years, and though that’s no excuse for not doing things to strengthen our relationship, I have to say that we know each other pretty well by now, and oftentimes it’s the things we don’t do that keep things moving in a positive direction. So I was faced with a conundrum: Offer to stroll around the small end of the lake with her on a lovely December afternoon as sort of a surprising thing I normally wouldn’t do, or strap on my sneakers and pound around the lake on my own — which, it occurs to me now, is also a surprising thing I normally wouldn’t do?

Doing surprising things can also strengthen a relationship, as long as the surprising things aren’t explicitly idiotic. Bungee-jumping off the Ford Bridge, for instance, would be surprising, but it would also be stupid in more ways than I can describe. So, both alternatives would have the advantage of being sort of surprising, and both could have a strengthening effect on our relationship, depending on how annoyed MLW might be with my uncertain walking pace and whether my loping around the lake landed me in the emergency room with cardiac arrest.

In the end, I opted for the casual stroll with MLW, not so much because of its potential relationship-strengthening effects, but because running 5 kilometers is a once-a-year thrill that I really think one should savor. I couldn’t imagine slogging around the lake less than a week before the real deal on Wednesday, when it will be probably 40 degrees colder and I’ll be surrounded by thousands of people with whom I have no relationship whatsoever, and hence no reason to do anything to strengthen it.

We had a lovely walk, during which I carefully matched my pace with hers. The sun shone, the birds sang, and by the time we completed our modest circuit, something told me that I’d made the right decision. MLW was happy, there was a good chance our relationship had been strengthened, and I hadn’t broken a sweat.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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