I ran two marathons while I was married to The Narcissist.
A marathon is an accomplishment at any rate, but it feels extra monumental for me. I was not a runner… I was pretty much the opposite of a runner when I met The Narcissist. I had never run more than a 1/2 mile in my life. I survived 4 years of high school track (and was even a Captain my senior year) without ever running a race, ever. (I threw discuss and shot-put.) I knew lots of people who liked to run, I just never happened to be one of them. Running was not on my ‘bucket list’ for life and I could have died perfectly happy never ever running a marathon, and I would not have felt like a failure for that.
As with absolutely everything in my life, the things that were once ‘mine’ slowly shifted to be ‘ours’ (but really his.) Somehow I was thrust into a world of health and fitness because that was something that The Narcissist was passionate about. I began running with him as part of our daily workout regime and somewhere along the way that shifted into the goal of running a marathon. We started really marathon training the first summer we were married and he set a goal of running the biggest marathon where we lived just 6 months later. In 6 months, I was going to go from a non-runner to someone who could actually run 26.2 miles without dying.
So we followed a disciplined marathon training program where we ran 3 times per week – one sprint workout, one medium distance run, and one long-distance run. The mileage built up over the time period until the marathon hit. Realistically I increased my mileage too quickly for a beginner and got a really bad case of runner’s knee where I would hit a certain mileage and my knee would be in so much pain I would have to stop and walk. It’s a crazy time to look back on because I was accomplishing so much and achieving so much… yet doing it with The Narcissist left me feeling like a failure every step of the way. It was always something… I wasn’t motivated enough, I wasn’t being positive enough, the knee injury was a result of me not stretching enough, I wasn’t being aware of my body enough, I wasn’t running fast enough, I wasn’t taking it seriously enough… you name it, I heard it throughout that training period.
On many of the runs I felt like I was dying. We lived on a tropical island with an insane heat and humidity ratio, and even though we would run early morning or late at night dehydration was a challenge. Running didn’t come easy to me, and watching The Narcissist who had been a distance runner since high school didn’t help. As with most things in life he made it look so effortless, so easy… he even got runner’s high which hit him at the 2-3 mile mark making the experience almost euphoric for him. I on the other hand looked like a drowned cat who could barely keep her shit together.
The day before we ran our first marathon, The Narcissist was upset with me most of the day. I can’t even remember all of the details of it, I just remember it being a bad day – which at that point in our life had to be pretty significant to stand out from just every single day. But he was determined to drive across the island and go to a big sports store to buy compression leggings to help us get through the marathon. He had read an article about a particular brand, researched if there was anywhere we could actually buy them on the island, and then fretted over if he would be able to find a size that would fit him. Then we drove the hour to go buy them, and spent what felt like an eternity while he tried them on to find just the right fit. After spending a few hundred dollars on compression gear we were ready to head back home and eat dinner and rest up for the night to get up early and run the marathon the next day.
Somewhere during the ride home we started talking about what we were going to eat for dinner. We weren’t eating quite the crazy diet yet so we had planned on doing a bit of carb-loading the night before. Since I did all of the grocery shopping and meal planning and cooking, I had picked up some really yummy pasta and planned to make a home made meat sauce for some protein as well. I had everything defrosted and ready to throw together for dinner. When I shared the meal plan with him, he freaked out at me. He was upset that I was so thoughtless about planning for such an important pre-marathon meal and could not believe that I didn’t incorporate any vegetables into the meal. He literally berated me for the remainder of the car ride home until I was in tears and apologizing for being such a careless and stupid woman and he wasn’t speaking to me. Crying and pleading and arguing ensued. Hours and hours later he decided that he would “put in the right effort to plan a healthy meal for us” and decided to cook exactly what I had planned with a side of glazed carrots (apparently that made all of the difference.)
Even after eating he still wouldn’t talk to me. I’m pretty sure I even slept on the floor that night because he wouldn’t let me into the bedroom (but all of those nights blur together now.) I was absolutely positive that we were no longer running the marathon that I had worked my ass off training for over the last 6 months. I was sure that I ruined everything and it was now 3 am and we weren’t even asleep yet… another thing to add to the books that I had completely ruined in our marriage. You can imagine my surprise when a mere 3 hours of sleep later, The Narcissist was awake and stomping around the house getting ready for the marathon. He told me that he was not going to let me ruin something like this, and that if I wanted to come with him I had 20 minutes to get ready and get everything I needed and get in the Jeep.
He didn’t thank me when I got all our stuff together, he didn’t speak to me for the hour ride to the marathon location. Other than one word directions or answers he didn’t say anything to me while we waited in a crowd of 30,000 people to start the run. I was about to start running my first marathon ever, and it should have been an inspirational and exciting experience for me, and instead I was running on glass for 26.2 miles. I do remember good things from that day… the amazing people of the island high-fiving me, little kids shouting USA! USA!, the music, the cheering…. but what I remember more than anything was thinking that I had to complete that marathon to get The Narcissist to love me.
I did pretty well for the first 12 miles, and shockingly it actually felt pretty easy… I had trained well and I could do it. However, for the last 12 miles, I wanted to die almost every single step. My knee was killing me, I was absolutely physically and mentally exhausted, and I was losing the mental game of knowing that I could make it to the end. I just remember thinking about how mad The Narcissist would be if I quit, if I started walking. I would never hear the end of it… he would call me a quitter forever… he would use this as an example of how I wasn’t committed to anything and would somehow twist it to prove that I wasn’t committed to our marriage. He would hold it over my head forever, and I would always feel like I wasn’t good enough.
I finished that marathon not because I wanted to, not because I was proud of doing it… I finished that marathon because at that point in my life I honestly believed that doing that would make my marriage better. It took me 5 hours and 20 minutes to cross the finish line. I was so exhausted I slept sitting up the entire car ride home because my body literally had nothing left to give. I lost both of my big toenails because my running shoes should have been a half size bigger. I had a blister the size of Texas on the bottom of my foot… and a certificate and a medal saying that I had completed a marathon.
I can’t even remember if The Narcissist hugged me at the finish line. I’m pretty sure he did but the reality is that whatever “celebration” we had at completing our first marathon was so minuscule compared to all of the abuse that I endured that day, that I can’t even remember it. I can’t remember what we did when we got home. I can’t remember how his being mad at me was resolved. I can’t even remember feeling like he was proud of me, or feeling like I had secured his love and his trust… and that’s because with a narcissist there is always another finish line to cross. Completing the marathon probably helped me avoid more pain and abuse… but as soon as that task was achieved there was something else I had to do just to keep up. Regardless of what I did, what I achieved, it was NEVER enough.
So now I have these accomplishments from my life, from my past that I feel like I should be proud of but at the same time I feel like they are not my own. I would have never run a marathon on my own. I would have never aspired to do that in my life. If somehow I had ended up in a marathon… I probably would have stopped and walked somewhere between miles 12-26.2. Its weird and confusing to shift your mindset of what you are proud of in your life. All of the things that I accomplished beside The Narcissist were things I always touted when I was with him… and now I am not so sure that I am really proud of myself for doing those things.
So as I was looking at my framed medals and certificates on the wall the other day I started thinking to myself….yes I ran 26.2 miles on 3 hours of sleep with a crazy man running beside me and not speaking to me over some stupid shit I can’t even remember, and I didn’t give up. Am I really proud of accomplishing that??? Is this something I want to display on my wall??? I’m not so sure anymore.