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.
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.