I should have seen this coming. Dying his hair yellow. The text-messaging back and forth. Coming home all hot and sweaty from Bikram yoga (or so he says). Yep, my training partner Mark’s got himself a younger woman.
True, I’ve let myself go since this summer. And I wasn’t around when he needed me. But, by partnering up this morning for the 22nd annual Couples Run, I hoped we could rekindle a little bit of what we once shared. Mark and I met when he was training for his first marathon and like any pair on the same pace, we grew close. Like a real husband, he was aware of my mood swings and monthly cycles; he’d even pretend to listen to me chatter nonstop when, I suspect, he actually was tuning into Jack Johnson on his iPod. In turn, I learned so much about his family that by the time I met his wife, Janice, she seemed like an old friend. Mark and I ran on and off together until my fractured hip in June. By then he'd already started running with the much younger Jackie, and -- no coincidence, I’m sure -- he started to set PRs at just about every distance.
Any doubts about the two of them were cast aside at the start of today’s race in Pacific Beach. I watched from the back of the pack as the two comfortably ran together. Only a year ago it had been me by Mark’s side before pulling away to try and secure us some hardware for our efforts. Alas, we placed 3rd and got only an honorable mention.. This year I put the burden on Mark to finish strong since I was coming off a full week of the flu.
The course is simple: two miles out along a two-laned, mostly flat service road that parallels the freeway, then turn around and come back. It grew humid and misty as a moist front began to force its way into the area. I didn’t bother to wear a watch, but I did mentally note my time shouted out at each mile marker: 8:42...18:05...27:14. As I approached the final stretch, Mark came up the hill to meet me and cheer me to a 36:26 finish. He’d come in 4+ minutes earlier.
Afterward I confronted the other woman, whose boyfriend had finished about a minute ahead of me. I already knew Jackie was nice, but it turns out she studied economics in college like me. How could I not like someone with that kind of connection? We parted ways and Mark and I went to the awards ceremony to see where we stood among the other couples in the 90-99 combined age group. We took 1st place!
On the way to our cars, I ribbed Mark about finding a younger replacement and he fell right into “running husband” mode and reminded me that he did come back for me on the course. I suppose this leaves open the possibility of reconciliation. But I’m warning you, Mark, if I find out you’re still fooling around, an age-group award for this 'trophy wife' will no longer do. No, next time you better surprise me with diamonds.