2 ½ months into dating, Jason & I signed up for a 4-month marathon training/fundraising program together. This could’ve been disastrous. He wasn’t an experienced runner. I wasn’t a runner at all! But we discovered that we both liked the idea of tackling this bucket-list challenge and we talked each other into it.
I got a Team in Training brochure in the mail and we went to an info meeting intending to sign-up for a half marathon. We met an older woman and cancer-survivor that shamed us into signing up for the full instead and damn near made me cry. If she could do it, then why couldn’t we with our young cancer-free bodies? How do you argue with that? We would later come to know and love this woman as Virginia Garner, the heart and soul of our running family.
Our 4 months of training began. Jason came over after work and we’d do our mid-week runs together. On Saturday we’d meet up with the team and run with our separate pace groups as he is faster than I am.
Eventually, it was Jason’s IT band that set us on course to become running partners for our first marathon and in marriage. Needing to tackle a 16 miler, Jason decided to run at my pace hoping that would ease his knee pain. And so, we ended up running our 18 and 20 mile training runs together as well. These long runs were taxing on our bodies and minds and we quickly realized that we handled that differently.
San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll 2008 was our first marathon and we did it together. We did run/walk intervals and, for the first half, we were nervous/excited and it seemed a little unreal that we were actually doing this! Then Jason’s knee starting complaining. Then my ankle. Then it got hot. Then we felt miserable. Everything ached. Every step hurt. Clearly, this was real and it sucked.
A marathon is stressful physically and mentally. To distract ourselves from the pain, we go to different places in our brains. Jason fixated on calculating our pace, trying to work out our ever-growing estimated finish time. I went to the silly, nonsensical and repetitive, like singing the same verse of a song from Flight of the Conchords over and over again. I literally had to tell him not to do calculations out loud because, not only did I not care but I didn’t even want to hear it. I was cranky.
Around mile 16, Jason became reluctant to start running on the interval. He remembers feeling ready to stop and just walk/limp for the last 10 miles. Normally he runs just a step or two ahead of me, quickening our pace, and I have to tell him to slow down. Now he was in pain and it was showing.
Noticing this made me feel like I had to keep us going if we were going to do this. We’d raised all this money and dedicated our run to friends struggling to survive cancer. We HAD to do this. Every time our watches beeped for the run interval, I waddled into a sluggish shuffle/jog and then he would too. He told me afterward that I kept him going.
We finished. We limped for a few days. We got each other through it and we appreciated each other more for it. We also learned a lot about how we handle stress and how, even when you are nearly delirious with exhaustion, you can muster up some patience for each other. We figured that if we could finish a punishing first marathon together than there might be a good chance we could make it through life together.
We got married a year later and still run together. My fastest half marathon (at the time of this post) was with Jason running a step of ahead of me, helping me push my limits. We spent our 2nd anniversary participating in a long distance relay. For nearly all of the events I’ve run, Jason has run bandit along side me for several miles as my pack-mule, carrying anything I might need. On days when I don’t feel like training, he makes me put my shoes on and gets me out the door. We’re better together.
Thanks to Twitter I learned about the Partnerunning Community, which made me realize that, while I’ve mentioned that my husband runs with me and that I prefer running with someone, I’ve never really focused on how much I appreciate it. Whether it’s running or rock climbing or weight lifting, we often talk each other into it. Our mutual interest in fitness is one of the things I like most about us and our marriage is better for it.