I woke up for the New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon—an hour before I was supposed to be standing in corral 2 ready to run my fastest PR yet—with visions of wine flights, terrible karaoke, and late-night, raucous partying dancing in my head. I ate a bite of cold pizza, threw a four-star tantrum, and took a shower before finally succumbing to my fate, putting on my race clothes, and sauntering from our hotel to the start line. No need to remind me that I’m too old for this behavior—my mental disciplinarian had a field day.
I stretched my IT bands, kissed my husband goodbye, snuck into corral 5 (I think?), and took off running when they released my wave across the start line. I looked down at my Garmin at the mile 1 marker and through the pink fog of the strawberry jello shots from the night before, and the real fog resting heavy on the race course that morning, saw that I had ran it in 7 minutes. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!
I spent the next five miles running at a slightly-slower-than-my-normal pace to conserve energy, thanking volunteers and waving to spectators. And, then I was stone cold sober, slogging along with the grim determination normally seen on the faces of refugees washing ashore in Key West. Miles 6-11 were like an out-of-body experience where I was watching myself become a slow motion train wreck. I’m pretty sure the color of my face matched my pale green shirt.
Then, a low, terrible, demon tried to claw its way out of my belly around mile 12 and I resorted to limping for about a 1/2 mile before summoning everything in the universe to run to the finish line. I crossed, collected my medal, posed for the obligatory photo, and found a large tree to slump under with my chocolate milk and tightly wrapped Mylar blanket. Official time: 2:23:16. I was crushed.
I don’t know how much time passed before I looked up to see my husband walking toward me—who was supposed to be running the full marathon. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??!!” I choked out, as if seeing an apparition. It turned out that my husband had veered off-course to come find me, to make sure I was not belly-up in the gutter somewhere. Now THAT is love.
I insisted that he finish his race. And, he did. After taking a nearly 50-minute detour—not to mention running extra miles—to search for me at the finish line and back-track to the marathon route, he crossed and got his own medal. We drank a beer together and went back to our hotel, never feeling more connected and in love than after enduring this experience together.
What I realized later, was that after the birth of our twins in 2012—and everything in between—it was important for my husband and I to remember how to cut loose together and to dig deep together. For the first night away from our children in almost two years (counting pregnancy), we needed time to act like young, reckless children ourselves. I won’t recommend this kind of couples therapy to others, but I will say there is something special to be gained in the bond of human experience, whether shared joy or suffering.
When I reviewed the race photos online, I was blown away that I could only catch a glimpse of the true emotion/pain playing behind my eyes in one of the finishing photos—it’s my favorite one. I also realized that there were plenty of runners (featured in the background of my race photos) who may have been running their first half marathon, PR, or who may have never felt better when they crossed the finish line. Life is all about perspective, and it’s definitely too short to waste time regretting jello shots or singing “Poker Face” in public.
“Love opens the doors into everything, as far as I can see, including and perhaps most of all, the door into one’s own secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self.” -Mary Sarton