What having a triathlete husband taught Reggie Aquino Diano about love

Photos courtesy of Reggie Aquino Diano

Four years ago while we were both based in New York, my boyfriend (now husband) Francis asked me to run with him in Central Park as a present for his birthday.

To put things into perspective, my dad had to train me for a month back in college to pass the 10-minute mile test for my P.E. 101 class—needless to say, running was not my forte. Wanting to fulfill his birthday wish during that spring morning, I dutifully bought myself a pair of running shoes the day before, woke up early, and met him at the corner of 59th Street and Central Park West to begin our run.

About 15 minutes in, amid my excessive sweating, he announces that we had gotten to our actual run location—his favorite spot, the Reservoir. “Hold on, you mean we haven’t even started??” I said, red-faced and between pants. Realizing that the past 15 minutes had just been a warm-up to the numerous laps he envisioned we were going to take, I calmly looked around for a comfy looking bench, pointed to it and said, “I’ll just wait for you over there!”

Post-birthday run photo in Central Park

Francis is an avid runner and triathlete. I, as you might have picked up, am not. Francis’ idea of leisure is watching the Kona Ironman World Championship replay on TV on a Sunday afternoon. More than just participating in the sport, he channeled his interest in orthopedics and sports into a career, working as a physiotherapist in New York before setting up his dream come true in Manila, Pace Prehab & Recovery in 2016.

Just like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries, our schedule as a couple has revolved around his races. For years I could not comprehend his need to put himself through all of the pain involved in training and, further, how he could be willing to sacrifice time away from me. I would wake up anxious every race morning, nervous and restless until I received a call from him to say he was okay.

Just like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries, our schedule as a couple has revolved around his races. For years I could not comprehend his need to put himself through all of the pain involved in training and, further, how he could be willing to sacrifice time away from me

When we moved back to Manila, Francis also got very involved with the local triathlon community, a group that I myself did not fit into—all things leading me at one point to resent the sport itself and his involvement in it.

It would be much easier to explain that there was a definite turning point, a big event that shifted my perspective, but there wasn’t. Just like the many hours Francis had to log in to work on his form, waking up a few hours earlier to work out despite a long day ahead, I had to work on my endurance as a partner as well. Exercising patience, acceptance, and trust took effort. I also went through a training of sorts to purposefully recognize his need to reach certain goals for himself and to find joy in the victories that had nothing to do with me.

Francis sprinting towards the end of Ironman 70.3 Princeton

I’ll never forget the first triathlon of his that I watched—a 70.3 in Princeton. I remember sitting on the grass alone for about five hours, only seeing him twice mid-race. Once he approached the finish line, (after what seemed like days under the hot sun), I ran to the front envisioning the type of dramatic embrace you see in the movies as athletes triumphantly run towards their loved ones. Instead, he shot me a wave, smiled, mouthed “Hi,” and walked towards a fellow racer to debrief. Again, at the time I felt frustrated, but then as the years passed, I realized that part of the exercise of understanding is accepting that by nature, triathlon is a solitary sport.

As a partner, it isn’t about you or your relationship—for those few hours, it is purely about him. As I told Francis during our wedding, my promise as his wife is to—and I quote directly from our vows—“support you even in things I do not understand, including but not limited to: swimming, biking, and running.”

Trying on the Princeton finisher’s medal—note the unplanned tan

As relationships go however, Francis has also learned to include me in his triathlon life and has accepted that my support doesn’t have to equate to swimming a few laps in the pool or going for a run around the park. He has come to realize that I have always been perfectly happy to just find a comfy spot, slather on some SPF, and shout out, “I’ll just wait for you over there!” My one request though? I do want my darn hug whenever he crosses the finish line.