A race to save marriage

Timothy and Tina Aquino

By Elton Lugay

How can an athletic competition keep marriages from falling apart? That’s what Timothy Aquino, a 45-year-old contestant of Ironman Triathlon, will seek to find out.

Tim is registered for the first Ironman U.S. championship in the New York/New Jersey area next month. The World Championship – bringing in all the winners across the U.S. – will be held in Kona, Hawaii in October.

But Tim is in the grueling competition for a grander reason other than proving his athletic prowess. He is seeking a global platform to spread his message about saving marriage. As Ironman winner, he gets to travel around the country and speak out about marriage and the need to keep it from disintegrating amid the persistent threats posed by financial difficulties, gender politics, and a pop culture industry that romanticizes divorce and single parenthood.

Tim and his wife Tina belong to the Morning Star New York, a Christian ministry that was created after 9/11. There is no permanent “church,” but members meet in different parts of the city called “worship sites” to discuss family-related and social justice issues — anywhere from strengthening family relationships to human trafficking.

They joined the church when they recognized in 2007 that their own relationship was starting to fray. The couple are now active marriage ministers. They have grown children Samantha, 25, and Jonathan, 23.

“By God’s grace, we have been able to help married couples going through some really difficult times and nearly separating stay on and fight for their marriages,” Tim told The FilAm in an interview.

Some of the couples they ministered to continue to work on their differences, but have so far avoided falling into the divorce trap.

“There have also been many single people who have approached us and sought our guidance as they prepare for marriage,” said Tim. “In one of the classes we taught, an African-American husband said to me, ‘Tim, it’s so comforting and liberating to know that the difficulties my wife and go through in our marriage are the same things you and Tina went through.’”

With this as his motivation, Tim is training hard to achieve his goal of being able to reach a bigger audience.

“I heard about the Ironman World Championship in Kona many years ago when I saw it on TV,” he said. “It has been a dream to do an Ironman when I turn 45 and this is the year.”

The long-distance triathlon, organized by the World Triathlon Corporation, consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a marathon 26.2-mile run.

Tim in training.

Tim said he trains six days a week averaging 18 hours per week. On some days he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for training. His workout gym is the Asphalt Green Triathlon Club at the Upper East Side. For speedwork he goes to the Tappan Zee High School track. He also runs in Central Park and works with a coach, Victoria Tiase, who is an elite triathlete herself. Drawing parallels to marriage, he said, “The main thing that we want to achieve in all of this is to raise awareness that we can have thriving marriages if we do it together; that we all go through tough, trying times and that we need guidance, wisdom, and support from other people.”

Just like the Ironman, he stressed, “We train to win, we push to persevere, we never give up.”

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