Returning a million little favors

Running sometimes means sacrifice.  Warm beds on mornings when a long run awaits.  Cocktails and happy hours when you’ve got a date with the track.  Toenails, just generally.

When I was in college, I ran for my school’s DIII cross-country team, an organization that was unusually hard-core for a small, non-scholarship program.  We had practice every single day at the crack of dawn: no weekends off, no make-up sessions, no excuses whatsoever.  Once every two weeks or so, we’d get a “sleep in morning.”  Coach usually scheduled it on a Monday or Tuesday.

And unlike college classes, attendance was not at all optional.  You literally had to be dying in your dorm bed in order to get out of 5 AM practice, or risk getting kicked off the team.  (Ask me sometime how that worked out for me, preferably after I’ve had a glass of wine or two.)

That first semester of college was a tough one as I tried to figure out how to balance team life with normal-college-kid life.   As you might expect, some poor decisions were made that autumn.

5 AM intervals are not fun when you are hung over.  Surprisingly, they are significantly more tolerable when you are still marginally drunk, but it’s tough to hit that sweet spot.

Because it was damn near impossible to having anything resembling a normal social life – much less a relationship – while on this team, most of my teammates simply dated each other.

But as it turned out, before the ink was even dry on my first class schedule, I’d already fallen pretty hard for a non-runner-guy.

I knew that my coach did not approve of this, as dating a non-runner typically kept me up past “runner bedtime.”  On the mornings when I wasn’t hung over, I was horribly cranky from lack of sleep and generally unenthusiastic about my workouts.

After a few months, I kind of figured out how to make it work.  In my mind, it was all about sacrifices.  I envisioned myself as living in two worlds which were wholly incompatible with one another, and focused on simply choosing the path that would maximize return and minimize collateral damage.  A night of partying in exchange for a botched workout?  Well, how big is the party?  How important is the workout? For four years, my life was all about costs and benefits.

And to a large extent, it still is.  I married the guy, and I’m still running and racing – and still balancing the competing forces in my life: sleep and booze and intervals. It’s still about sacrifices, even though these days I’m far less likely to find myself in the upside-down-margarita chair at 2:30 AM.

Um.  Anyway.

It recently occurred to me that there is one thing in this equation to which I probably haven’t given appropriate consideration: the sacrifices that my other half has made over the years. That non-runner-guy who, in college, was stuck dating the cross-country chick who always had to miss out on Friday night parties for Saturday morning meets.  Who came home from practice smelling like cows (all of the Inland Empire in SoCal smells like cows).  Who was permanently exhausted and usually cranky and always hungry.

If I tried to make a list of all of the things my husband has put up with over the years as a direct result of my crazy running habit, I’d need a magic pen with bottomless ink.

– Weekend alarm clocks that go off at obscene hours of the morning, often on his only day off of work for the week.

Race fees that drain our joint bank account, which was already reeling from my lack of contribution to it.

– Annual marathon “spectating,” which usually entails getting up really early and waiting on a random street corner for the possibility that he might see me run by, probably on the other side of the road where I won’t even notice him.  Basically, he holds my sweatshirt for four hours and then listens patiently as I whine for the rest of the day about how poorly I ran.  How awful for him.

– Countless back rubs and foot rubs.  And collectively, I’m sure there are hours of time he’s spent helping me with things that I’m unable to do myself because I’m too sore or exhausted.

– Excessive yammering and complaining, by me, about my running.  On a rather constant basis.  What he’s thinking: “What the hell is a Yasso 800?  Why is she upset about this?  Who the hell cares about two seconds?  Literally, it’s two seconds. Is she joking?  Why is she still talking?” What he says: *smile and nod*

– One word: chafing.  I don’t think I need to elaborate on why this is unattractive and not conducive to certain activities.  Ahem.

– And most importantly, my husband has been my number-one supporter over all of these years.  He encourages me when I need a pep talk and consoles me when I need a shoulder to cry on.  He believes in me.  And will do just about anything to make me happy.  He once convinced a Scottsdale gas station to sell him a six-pack of beer before they were legally allowed to on Sunday morning, because that’s what I’d said I wanted more than anything during the three-second conversation we had as I ran by at mile sixteen of my marathon.

That’s love, right there. And it was a really, really good beer.

Anyway.  Why am I prattling on about all of this?

Because I just have to say how happy I am to be the one doing the supporting on Saturday.  When the hubs said he might want to run a certain (more on this later!) marathon in 2011, I was very excited, but a tad skeptical.  I told him he’d need to run a few shorter races first.  I told him he’d need to seriously train.  Marathons are no joke.  I told him that….well, that he’d need to do a lot of running. And I knew he didn’t really like running very much.  I signed both of us up for the Charlottesville Half Marathon, which would be his second race ever and his first long one, and hoped for the best.

But he has surprised me.  He’s come a long way!  On our 10-plus-miler last weekend, I was thrilled right along with him when we hit the point of his longest run to date.  I felt his disgust and disappointment upon his first taste of Gu.  (“You just…squeeze out and swallow this slime?  Gross.”)  I empathized and doled out generous calf massages when his legs met post-run soreness.

I know we haven’t even crossed the starting line of this half yet, let alone the finish line.  But I am already so incredibly proud of him.

And that is why I am more than happy to stay by his side on Saturday.   A lot of people have asked me why I’m not planning on “racing.”  Well, because sometimes other things are more important.

I wish there were a way to repay him for everything he’s done for me over the last 13 years over the course of these 13 miles.  It won’t even scratch the surface.  But still: I’ll do what I can.  I’ll carry his Gu.  I’ll listen, and console, and encourage.  Afterward, I’ll massage whatever hurts and fetch beers on demand.  It’s my turn to be the support staff.

And you know what?  I don’t at all consider it a sacrifice.

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62 responses to “Returning a million little favors

  1. awww, this made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂 go hubs!

  2. Nice…go D!

  3. This is very sweet! Unfort my non-runner husband ran a 10k once with me and kicked my ass so bad. I think he finished a good 10 mins ahead of me. So I don’t offer to do races with him anymore because then I just feel stupid, and I’m not that slow of a runner.

  4. So sweet, Shelby! Hope you and the hubs have a great run this weekend. Charlottesville is a city dear to my heart. Enjoy the sights and the excellent eats!

  5. Wow. This gave me a lot of warm fuzzies and stuff. Hope your husband has a great race.

    I spent some of my Thursday evening in Ontario with family. I’m more familiar with that IE cow smell than I’d like to admit.

  6. awww i love this post! i tried to apply it to us, but in our case, josh’s insane job choice definitely has balanced out any sacrifices he had to make for my running in the past — at least in my opinion 🙂

    i’ve said it already but ahhhh wish i was coming to cville! I LOVE THAT HALF!!

  7. Good luck to the hubs. Hope he has fun but just enough to complain about to be a “real runner.”

  8. Awwwww! Seriously, awwww! Good luck to him this weekend!!

  9. Aw, thats really sweet! Good luck to you both this weekend!

  10. awww Shelby this was such a great post – I hope your hubs reads it! You are so right – the people that have to endure what we runners do deserve A LOT of thanks 🙂 I’m sure you’ll be the best supporter/cheering squad/Gu holder ever. Good luck to you guys this weekend!!

  11. Such a great post! It hit quite close to home, as I found myself making the same sacrifices and weighing my options daily for swimming… 6am practices are no college kid’s friend, especially on a Thursday morning, and never getting to go out on Friday nights during the season was just unfair in our eyes. And yup, we all date each other too, fondly known as “swimcest.” Oh to be a college athlete, even D3!

  12. I love this: “Basically, he holds my sweatshirt for four hours and then listens patiently as I whine for the rest of the day about how poorly I ran. How awful for him.”

    I have a 15k this weekend and I told my other half he didn’t even have to go – he said he’s coming anyway. I almost cried.

    We will all be rooting for TEH HUBZZZ!

  13. Can I copy and paste this post as my own?! My husband has done all the same things for me and really has never complained. It is amazing what they do for us!

    Good luck to you and your hubs this weekend! Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

    • I was thinking the same…can I just say “hubs, read this and ditto” ??? Because my writing skillz are no match for this, but I feel the same. (Even though the racing stuff has just begun for him.)

      I will be thinking of you guys and anxiously awaiting the recap! I will virutally “cheers” with a beer for you 🙂

  14. I thought the butt chafing post was my favorite of yours, but I think this actually topped it =) Best of luck to your husband (and you) at the half!

    ps- love your blog. you’re hilarious!

  15. Awwww… good luck to the husband this weekend! I’m sure he’ll do great. And I’m sure it’s going to be so much fun for you to be the one supporting him this once… even if you have to hold his crap for a couple hours. :p

    The race spectating is key, though. I love having people there. But it’s always hard for me to ask. There’s no fun way to say, “hey, wanna come stand in undesirable weather with a large crowd of people to possibly see me run by? Thanks…”

    • Perhaps spouses “spectate” at races for the 1,000 hot, sweaty, sexy athletes of the opposite gender parading by in scanty clothes. Just saying.

  16. love this post. and as someone who has seriously dated both serious runners and NOT runners alike, i prefer the latter. just sayin’. if someone’s gonna be stinky every day, i want it to be me, ’cause girls are less stinky when stinky.

    anyway. enough of my weirdness. good luck to the hubs this weekend!

  17. awww I’m sending this to my boyfriend–and my mom, who has also had to put up with all of the racing my dad and I have done over the years!

  18. Aww, how sweet. I hope you both have a lot of fun this weekend.

  19. Great post!! Good luck to your husband!!

  20. What a heart warming post! Two weeks ago when my boyfriend drove me over 20 miles away to the start of the boston marathon, just so I could run the course before the race, when he had so much work to do that day, it really hit me how thankful I am to be with someone who is so supportive of my crazy running lifestyle, especially because he doesn’t run himself. Its so awesome that you will be able to support your husband in his first half marathoon!! Loved reading this post 🙂

  21. This post reminded me of a few FACTS:

    1. There was a reason I didn’t last very long on my D3 team. (Inability to sacrifice as you described being, well, exactly why.)
    2. There is a reason why I’ll never get married (Being completely self involved and not up for helping anyone as described being, well, exactly why.)
    3. If I’d married a dude I dated in college? I’d be married to a gay dude. Which would suck, but perhaps my blog would be more popular, yes? (If I had a dog.)

    Enjoy! I’ve heard the course is gorgeous.

  22. This post makes my heart happy. My husband, as well, is a wonderful supporter & I know I don’t think him enough. Even when he was injured, he supported every race we signed-up for together – finding me at 4 different spots on the marathon route & ‘dealing’ with the 3.5 month training schedule (i.e. countless early mornings, moaning & groaning about soreness, talking about it non-stop). Thanks for the reminder of how lucky we are 🙂
    Good Luck this weekend!

  23. SO NICE! especially if you read my tweet on my husband’s complete non-interest in my race. Hope to see you both tomorrow. Weather looks perfect.

  24. Awesome post! My hubby is not a runner in the least, but he has my back like no other!

  25. I came back to say that I sent this to my husband to read and he said “did you send that to me so I start running with you more? Regardless, the comics she draws are pretty awesome.”

    See? You are AWESOME 😉

  26. i got the warm and fuzzies here 🙂 good luck to the hubs!

    and i’ve tried to hit that sweet spot of still drunk yet okay enough to do a tough workout. i’ve been successful a handful of times. guess that means i should practice more?

  27. Dude, this made me cry a little.

  28. I love this. Good luck to your hubs. At least we can all rest assured that he has butt lube he can use, right?

  29. this is beyond awesome. good luck to the hubs!!!

  30. I was a DIII basketball player so reading this was a total blast from the past. It was absolutely four years of balancing a social life and 5am conditioning workouts. I distinctly remember thinking one time, “Well how sober do I really need to be for a shooting practice and walk through…” Fortunately those days are behind me. Unfortunately I didn’t find my dream guy, but I’m really glad that you did 🙂 Your hubby is going to kill it this weekend! Good luck to him and enjoy the race!

  31. AWwwwww! Most romantic post ever.

    I feel the same way. My boyfriend was such a trooper last year when I was obsessively racing and training for Hood to Coast. He was there on early mornings cheering me on when I raced, he listening to me cry about injuries, he shot video of me crossing the line after Hood to Coast and tolerated my crankiness after running for 36 hours and not sleeping for 40. Love!!

  32. Love it. Have a blast tomorrow!

  33. Good luck, hubs!
    And watch out, Shelby…he just might surprise you!!

  34. Not sure what is wrong with me, exactly, but this post made me tear up. At work. This is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read – further solidifying my undying and relatively newfound love for your blog. Good luck to your husband this weekend!

  35. Neon Blonde Runner

    Uhh….I got got a tear in my eye?!

    Loved reading this.

  36. That’s so great – both that you have a husband who supports you and that you realize it and dedicated this post to him.

  37. Neon Blonde Runner

    and PS I went to school in Cville (graduated ’05) and I am obsessed with that town. Eat some Arch’s frozen yogurt for me.

  38. Good luck to your hubs! This was a beautiful post–love how you can make me laugh out loud one day (butt chaffing) and tear up the next!

  39. Sweetest post ever. You and teh hubz sound like a great team. Like BFF’s with benefits and a legal binding. ❤

    I wish you guys were running the Charlotte RaceFest half NEXT weekend instead so we could drink together afterwards!

  40. Such a great post , you guys are adorable. Best of luck this weekend D!

  41. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Sticking with you through marathon training is true love.

  42. I like Shelby Does Sweet… because it’s like tamarind sweet, with all kinds of tang and zing. Really, though, this is a sweet post and it’s so important to remember and honor the people we drive crazy with our obsessions (I mean, hobbies, right?!)

    I think I need to print out your appreciation list for your non-running husband and give it to mine–and I should do it tonight so he’s sweet on me when we both get up a 4:45 for a 6:15 a.m. race where he’ll stand on a corner and wait for me (with copious instructions of which shots I want him to take with the DSLR he gave me, could care less about knowing much about, but still lugs around with all my lenses, and my water, anway).

  43. Great post! This makes me want to plan something extra-out-of-the-ordinary nice for my H, as he really puts up with a lot from me and my running habit too…

    Cool to read about your running history; I didn’t realize you ran in college. No wonder you’re so awesome. 🙂

    • Forgot to say good luck this weekend; hope you have both have a great time!! Also, I sometimes smell like cows after my runs too… 🙂

  44. STFU you have me crying at work.

    AHHH! The IE. My second half was the Fontana Half. It sucked cow turds for sure. Oh and it was in June. We had been living in LA for less than a year and no one warned us Fontana is nicknamed Fontucky for a reason.

  45. 🙂 🙂 This post seriously made me smile. So well written. And WHAT is an upside-down margarita chair, and where can I get one? Good luck to your husband this weekend!

  46. Lovely post. I quite enjoyed it. 🙂

  47. Pingback: Weekend Mix Tape Volume 13 « My Running Shorts

  48. What a sweet post! That’s a loving husband right there. (and equally supportive wife) 🙂 Have a great time at the race!

  49. Aww, this is a great post! Good luck to you two this weekend! And thanks for the college flashback-good ol’ upside down margaritas!

  50. Love the comic 🙂

    I’ve given you an award today!

  51. Awwww that was so sweet! Way to go, Drew! Hope he did well and is feeling good.

  52. This is one of the sweetest posts I’ve ever read. Thanks for sharing.

  53. Aww this is great. My boyfriend is a non-runner who has been very understanding too. I hear ya about college life too. My social group became my team so it ended up not mattering a whole lot I guess.

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