To call tomorrow a special day would be a whopping understatement. Tomorrow I head East en route to the Boston Marathon. Take the usual mix of pre-marathon nerves and excitement and add to that the emotional magnitude of this year’s race, and you’ve got a whole lot of “!!!”.
Tomorrow also happens to be the one-year anniversary of my first date with Robin Hood.
How to celebrate both? I’ll tell you a story.
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I began my relationship with running almost 19 years ago. We met naturally, running and I — my dad has always been a runner, my mom ran, and each of my three older siblings had been brought into the fold. So when my freshman year of high school loomed on the horizon and Dad asked if I thought I might join the cross-country team, I was surprised. Wasn’t that a given?
I did join the team. I ran cross-country and track in high school, and kept running, though not competitively, in college. By the time I received my diploma, I had officially fallen in love with the sport. I had dealt with a couple of injuries, had my share of unpleasant runs, questioned my sanity, and had reached a conclusion. This was going to be a long-term relationship.
I ran my first marathon when I was 22, and got bitten by the bug. I ran 10 more marathons after that (11 come Monday) and never once along the way did I question or even reflect much on my relationship with running. It’s been mostly good, with the ups and downs of any relationship. Running has always been there for me, just an outfit change away, and I’ve never really, truly given serious consideration to its place in my heart.
Maybe you see where this is going.
If you guessed “other relationships,” bingo. I’ve dated a handful or so of men over the years. They were all nice, and to their credit, not one of them minded my running. They all thought it was cool that I ran, and never whined about my running cutting into our time together.
Except, well, these men and I never spent that MUCH time together. Even in the relationship that I would call the most serious of the lot, we never saw each other more than two or three times per week, so it wasn’t exactly a challenge to fit my running around that schedule.
Enter the man I’ve now been dating for a year.
I met Robin Hood just before I ran the Boston Marathon last year. He asked me out and I told him I was going out of town that weekend. I didn’t tell him the reason — not because I was shy about it; I just didn’t feel like having the “oooh, you’re a marathon runner!” conversation right at that moment.
We had our first date after I got back from Boston, and since then, things have been…well…great. He learned that I’m a runner. I learned that he’s a hunter. We’ve both accepted these things, and appreciate what they yield: he gets a happy girlfriend, and I get a happy boyfriend.
The issue is time. It’s not even an issue, really — just a new experience. I’m in a relationship where we both actually want to spend lots of time together. It’s wonderful! But as I prepared to train for Boston 2014, I asked myself, “What’s going to happen? Will I have the willpower to do those weekend long runs instead of going out to brunch? Will Robin Hood be alarmed by the amount of food I eat, or those lovely marathoner mood swings? What if one day I’m on my way out the door for an eagerly-anticipated run and he calls me with an emergency?”
The place in my heart that running had occupied for years was shifting, and it caught me off guard.
Again, maybe you see where this is going.
I needn’t have worried. I’ve been able to do my long runs. Robin Hood doesn’t mind my appetite and takes my mood swings in stride — incidentally, we’ve both learned to keep snacks on hand to avoid those mood swings. Plus, God bless him, he’s okay with the aroma of Icy-Hot. I’ve had to adjust the intensity of my training a bit, but that’s because of my body, not because of my man. We even run together once or twice a week. No, that’s not part of my training plan and no, I don’t care. I get to share my love with my love, and when that happens, I stop caring about which one I love more. It doesn’t matter.
I’ve learned a lot about love in the last year. I’ve learned that the main reason I love running is because I know it will, in fact, always be there for me, no matter how often or how well I do it. I’ve learned that it’s not only okay, but probably advisable, to gently shift running to the back burner sometimes.
But most of all, I’ve learned that love doesn’t need to be thought of in terms of front burners and back burners. There’s room for it all on one burner.
And it’s awesome.