Mileage in running and in love
When I turned the calendar this morning to begin this new month of February, I realized that this month my husband, SP, and I will be celebrating seventeen years together. Seventeen years!!! That’s crazy, mind-boggling, and ridiculous.
I also realized that in just a few more weeks I will be running my first marathon. That is also crazy, mind-boggling, and ridiculous.
How did I get here?
What was I thinking, seventeen years ago, when I said yes to that first date with SP? Well, I was thinking he was cute and I wasn’t doing anything else that particular Wednesday evening after work. Why not?
Similarly, what exactly was I thinking when I hit the submit button on the LA Marathon registration form? I certainly wasn’t thinking that I’d be actually running insane amounts of miles on my own in preparation; rather I saw it as a fun experience, a great way to spend a Sunday—in LA with my family.
I’m scheduled to run eighteen miles this Monday. Eighteen fucking miles! Sometimes I wonder why I even think that is a possibility; but something unknown tells me it is. I can see the 30,000 people gathered at the start line; I can hear Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” blaring across the crowd; I can see myself crossing the finish line all smiles. (Okay, I really see myself crossing the finish line all champion-like with arms over head and little beads of sweat splashing across my face as I whip my ponytail from side to side, “Eye of the Tiger” playing, and my adoring fans cheering me on: “Yay, Debi!” Please understand that it does take a bit of grandiose delusion to take on a marathon, so visions of grandeur are part of the game.)
And while we’re on the topic of grandiose delusions, let’s not overlook the whole “happily ever after” and “until death do us part” deal that gets most of us to the altar. My delusional images of marriage did not include family and life stresses, illnesses, financial burdens, or anything else that might take away from a life of romance and hot sex. Ha!
Enduring the pain and basking in the bliss
Building endurance in both marriage and running is essential. I have learned that when times are good, it’s easy to step back and take it easy, enjoy the happy spot; run effortlessly; live the happily ever after. Momentarily. But when it gets tough, be it hamstrings on fire in mile fourteen, or major life stressors in year sixteen, it’s best to narrow the scope and focus on one step at a time, both literally and figuratively.
By understanding the parallels of endurance training and marriage, I hope to become both a better mate and a better runner. This is what I’ve learned so far:
- Perseverance: To stay with something, to not quit, brings unexpected rewards. Feelings of being a rock star are not uncommon when we throw down long miles without stopping or find our way back to love after an intense argument. That’s when I start humming “I am Woman. Hear me roar . . .”
- The right tools: In running, a good pair of running shoes, sunscreen, and a full water bottle all help to minimize injury to the body; just as in marriage, communication skills, kindness, and respect help to minimize injury of the heart.
- Accessories are essential: Yes! A fun, colorful running skirt, a loaded iPod, and happy socks make the run way more fun. And a fine Cabernet, date night, and a trip to the “sensual toy store” all increase the marital fun-factor.
- Compassion: Struggling through painful times (miles or months) and coming out the other side, brings a sense of self-compassion that I have never known before. And the great thing about self-compassion is that by nature it cannot be contained, it radiates outward to those around us.
- Trust: When I think of the miles on my training plan or of the uncertain years ahead, I can so easily become filled with fear and doubt. Trust becomes a necessary anchor: Trust the training. Trust that all is as it should be.
- Support: Support is essential in both distance running and marriage. Whether it’s the sage advice I receive from my Superstar Stepdaughter Gia, or miles run with my friend, neighbor, and running buddy, Kalli, or SP and NP cheering me on as I run up the driveway after conquering sixteen miles, I am able to exhale in that support. And in marriage, when either partner takes on new a challenge or a new adventure, cheering each other on is integral and fun! All acts of endurance need a cheering section.
- Gratitude: The post-run gratitude for my body and for all it did/does for me takes me to that deep and private space of my spirituality. And as I lie in bed at the end of the day, my body worked, I realize that I am able to run those miles because of the enthusiastic support of my family. The blessings and gratitude run deep.
- Love: After all, it is love that drives everything.
Continuing on . . .
I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to bail out of a run (especially those damn hill repeats), or our marriage. (But every time SP and I consider throwing in the towel, we realize that we are stuck together forever because there are no two other people on this planet that would tolerate our finicky eating habits. FTW!)
Finally, I have learned that both marathon training and marriage are ordeals; neither is to be taken lightly or accomplished without pain and suffering. And with perseverance and trust, both can bring great satisfaction and joy. Besides, what else are you going to do on a Wednesday evening?
Here’s to eighteen miles on Monday and seventeen years with SP on February 22.
What keeps you going in your training or in your marriage?