I can still remember the route my dad would take on his weekend runs when I was a kid. I would hop on my bike to follow him after he laced up and started out the door, crawling up the steep incline to pause at the distant view of the NYC skyline as it appeared in the 90’s. Soon after, I began trailing after him with my own running shoes slapping the pavement, leaving the bike behind.
I don’t remember a time when I did not love to run. From those early days with just the occasional comment from my dad and the labored sounds of our breathing, to my awkward years of running in a full headset wired to a discman, it has always been more than a pastime for me. Living in a household overshadowed by mental illness, there are not many years of my childhood home life that I could relate as stable or calm, or at least not that I remember. Running became an escape, a refuge, and later, as my own mental health declined, my best coping mechanism.
During my first big trip abroad in Costa Rica, I continued the practice, roaming through the streets to find large and beautiful parks interspersed in the ultra urban setting of San José. It was here I experienced my first version of “you can’t run, it’s not safe here” which can easily be translated as “You’re a woman, and running with less clothing on in urban area’s makes you a target for crime.” I have since heard this all over the world, including when I was home living in Manhattan, and have dutifully logged it away as bullshit to ignore. Indeed, travel has actually expanded how I view running, allowing me to explore new cities and countries in ways that I would never have the time or the know how to do otherwise.
When Joe and I first started to become a “serious couple”, we folded my love of running into a relationship bond very easily. Less than two months after my first longer distance run, we ran our first half marathon together and quickly realized that training for hours a day and racing were much more fun when done together. As we continued to sign up for more races and never slowed down on booking plane tickets, we were often “forced” to include these training runs into our travels. So we began planning our runs to explore the cities and places we visited, to get lost in them and know them in a more intimate way. Sort of by accident, we had built in routine, quality time together, with nothing to distract us but out our aching legs and blistered feet.
I would have never thought in my life that I would eventually classify myself as a “runner” even though I have always tried to be active in sports and fitness. I was a basketball player for my entire life and it is a sport that I truly love. It was a struggle for me to go throughout high school and college with the competitive nature of basketball only to lose it all when I graduated.
I was a competitor that was missing a competition. Then, I met my future wife, and found a new way to be competitive: distance running. When Alicia told me she wanted to run a half-marathon together, I laughed it off and thought she was joking, there was no way I could run 13.1 miles! Sure enough, I was eventually convinced, mainly as a way to drop a couple of pounds.
And you know what? I got hooked. Not so much that I love running, I still would say that that is an exaggeration for me. But I love running with Alicia. We are so fortunate to be able to spend so much quality time together when training for these distance runs. If we’re training for a marathon, that ensures that we get an extra five hours a week together.
This is a time that we have that no one else has, where we can have our deepest conversations or just small talk about anything and everything happening in our lives. Whether we are planning our post-run meal–more than likely it’s noodles of some sort–or what we want to do with our lives, these are moments that I truly cherish. It is something that I would not trade with anyone or anything in the world.
Who knew running could be such a great tool for a marriage…