Our lil’ baby Marriage is turning one today! We are so proud. We created her ourselves by signing checks and a marriage license. Amidst the postpartum excitement, we also swore we would run a half marathon together. Holy Commitment.
Our first run as a married couple was on our honeymoon in Tahiti. The scene was as picturesque as you can imagine. Blue skies. Bluer water. Tropical flowers and vegetation spilling on to the path, we ran. My face was less like blushing bride and more like beet-red. As I wished for a full breath in 95 degrees, 100% humidity, I reminded myself: That guy ahead of you is your Husband. Appreciate this.
At my request, we ran directly into the ocean as our watches beeped for the final mile. To the passerby, I’m sure we looked too young, too excited, too in love and too naïve. We were just at the beginning of our training, after all.
We travelled 5,709 miles back home—the world of work and responsibility, a dog and family obligations—where we found our routine.
While we ran, I pointed out birds or commented on flowers. I told my husband about the dogs I’d seen in front yards. He was patiently anticipating that my voice and I would tire soon. Eventually, I drifted back. I harbored misdirected anger at his bobbing head. I watched him move effortlessly and happily down the street. He purposely, teasingly went faster, as if the gap between us was his golden opportunity to abandon his nagging wife. I responded with raised eyebrows and pointed to my ring (or middle) finger.
There are rare moments when we are stride for stride. We are confident, at ease, in sync. Our energies couple and propel us forward.
Mostly, we have our own pace and preferences so we naturally go our separate ways.
When I returned from a solo run, I chattered on about who I saw, the cramps and discomforts I felt. He listened intently.
Later, we were watching the evening news and he said,
“Yeah, I ran five miles this morning, too.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, offended.
“You didn’t ask,” He replied, matter of fact.
I am consistently annoyed and appreciative with this response. Re Annoyed: I am bursting with information to share with him every time I come home. If my mouth were glued shut, unable to express what had happened, my head would explode. Re Appreciative: My husband reminds me that other humans may need prompting or encouragement before spewing words. If I am quiet, this would leave him space to talk. If I can shut up and he manages to speak up, our conversational rhythm has the potential to flow like a sitcom’s lead couple.
Saturdays were for longer runs. We started on opposite ends of a predetermined ten-mile path. If you could zoom out and capture both of us in the lens of your camera, you would see us running towards one another, each in our unique, independent effort to conquer the miles.
You hear me singing and offering overly enthusiastic hellos to other runners. You listen to his belabored breath. He often glances at his watch to ensure a solid pace. I wait for the chime to check my mile time. You notice that our watches match. Our hats, too. We are steadily and cautiously drawing near, the way we do after a fight or a few days apart.
When you wonder why I suddenly smile, you pan to the right. That beautiful, sweaty man is finally within my view. You understand the joy of reaching the halfway mark mixed with the sweet sensation of seeing your favorite person in the whole world.
We high-five and keep going.
You should stop watching now. The second half of that run holds hunched shoulders, an aching back and tired legs. Not pretty or poetic. The tiredness strips my identity. I’m not a wife. I’m not in love. I am trying to finish what I started. My body and mind urge me to renege. I ignore them and make good on a promise.
We spent these training runs and the infancy of our marriage choosing between peeling away and zipping together. We are in the same room or on the same street, while our thoughts and perspectives are miles apart. As easily as I slide my hand into his, he lets mine go when our palms get too sweaty or someone needs to pass between us. We pursue our own paths and eventually return to each other, exchanging stories and findings. Brief stints of bonding and cohesion are sprinkled in, over cups of coffee, long car rides and in the Culver’s drive-thru.
With another year comes another promise. We will go farther than we’ve gone before: A full marathon. We will watch each other and our dear Marriage grow.