Drew and I met during a weekend retreat in college, at the beginning of my sophomore year, his senior year. It wasn’t sparks and fireworks right away but I think we both knew that we wanted to see more of the other. After talking a few times over Facebook messenger, we decided to meet up for a run in one of the local parks where Drew did a lot of his cross country training. That should have sent off alarm bells in my head: This guy isn’t just a runner, he’s a RUNNER. But run with him I did, sucking wind and trying not to vomit all the way.
After one long loop around the park, I had to stop and we walked for a few minutes. Thankfully my lacking running skills didn’t keep Drew from wanting to date me. Most of our relationship was long-distance, which didn’t really give us the opportunity to run together. When we were engaged, I cheered him on as he ran the 2010 Chicago marathon.
I watched as hundreds of people crossed the finish line, tired and hurting, but gigantic smiles plastered across their faces. From that moment I was determined to figure out what this “runner’s high” was all about.
Soon after we got married and moved into our first apartment in Atlanta, we set out together on a few runs. They were short, maybe two or three miles at the most, and would often end with me upset and crying because I just couldn’t do it and I thought that maybe I should just give up. But he never ran more than one footstep ahead of me and always swore that I wasn’t holding him back and that he preferred my pace anyway. He was consistent and encouraging. He taught me to look straight ahead rather than watching my feet and to relax my shoulders and hold my hands like I was carrying two fragile eggs, rather than balled up into tight fists.
It didn’t happen overnight, but mile by mile I could feel myself transforming into a better, stronger runner.
We’ve been married for three a half years now and will still go on the occasional Saturday morning run together. We’re not out there to be fast or break records. Instead, we talk about work, plans for the future, movies we want to see, and maybe most importantly, what epic breakfast we’re going to cook once after we get home. It’s like a date night, only it’s 8 in the morning and we’re dressed in running gear. It’s never a competition and we sometimes don’t even look at our watches until we finish. Running has given us yet another thing we have in common and we do it together because we genuinely enjoy it, not because we’re trying to impress or one-up the other (I learned my lesson on that one).
For other couples out there that do run together, or want to start, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go so smoothly the first few times. But like anything in a relationship, give it time and you’ll find a way to fit together and make it work.
Remember that sentence at the beginning of my story, where I said Drew wasn’t just a runner, but a RUNNER? Well, it took me over a thousand logged miles, four pairs of running shoes, and a lot of sweat to realize that I’m just as much of a runner as anyone else. You don’t have to cross the finish line in first place (or at all) to call yourself a runner. I think Bart Yasso said it best: “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.”
I’m not going to get cheesy here and make running a metaphor for marriage or life, but it has definitely been a journey. I also don’t know that I’ve ever really thanked Drew for being my running buddy, for better or worse, all these years (darn it, that was a marriage pun, sorry). He’s going to read this, so here it is: Drew, thank you for being patient and kind. Thank you for having confidence in me and giving me grace when I couldn’t give it to myself. There’s no one else’s dust I’d rather be chasing than yours!