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How the Marine Corps Marathon Leads to Divorce

marine corps marathon, marine corps marathon 2011

Hmmmm ... which runners left resentful spouses at home?

Just hours ago, enrollment for the 36th Marine Corps Marathon opened up. Serious runners in serious relationships, be warned.

Another thing that often opens up between the kind of couples where one is an endurance athlete and the other decidedly not: a gaping wound in their relationship.

Marriages across this great nation are being torn asunder due to excessive exercise.

Experts are calling it “exercise divorce.” The out-of-shape partner left on the sidelines calls it irreconcilable differences with someone devoted first and foremost to a great set of calves and the daily endorphine rush.

A recent Wall Street Journal report looked into this real phenomenon that has caught countless couples off-guard. While they had vowed to stay together in sickness and health, no one mentioned health obsessions involving a hundred hours a month at the gym, on a treadmill or pounding the streets in multiple marathons a month. Excessive exercise is particularly intrusive when it happens to couples who met and married before one of the partners decided to get fit and keep getting fitter.

Take, for example, Caren Waxman, who is featured in the WSJ piece. Her husband, Jordan Waxman, is a private-banking executive and an Ironman athlete. He gets up early to fit work and workouts in his day, so he leaves notes for his wife and kids. Essentially, she is an exercise widow. From the WSJ:

The exercise widow often wakes to an empty bed—a sure sign of a morning workout—and may find dinner plans spoiled by a sudden avoidance of anything heavy before a night run. Hoping for an hour of television or catching-up before bedtime? Forget it: All that early-morning exercise takes its toll. Mr. Waxman arrives home from the office after his children, ages 11, 10 and 8, have eaten dinner, and he hits the sack before they do. “I’m out of gas by nine o’clock,” Mr. Waxman says.

“A lot of wives in my position would have left,” Ms. Waxman says.

Not all couples find the fact that their partners are serious endurance athletes a bad thing. Which is great. But it’s causing lots of partnerships to falter. Maybe on half of one of those cases is signing up to run October 30 in this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

My unprofessional advice is for the athlete to hear out the couch-loving spouse and for them, together, to set some limits. Also? The marathon spouse needs to make sure the left-behind husband or wife gets some free time on par with the workout times — even if that free time is not spent on something as virtuous as heart-healthy aerobic workouts.

The real experts say the best way to make it better is for both to work out together.Yeah, sure, right. Then who’s going to watch the kids?

Have you lost your spouse to marathon running? Or some other past-time? What would you do if your partner started spending hours away from home on something that everyone regards as crazy-great but you just think is crazy-selfish?

Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera via Wikimedia

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