Despite the fact that Grant, my husband of nearly 19 years, and I enjoy both each other's company and endurance sports, we rarely run together. We have logged a few miles side-by-side, but this picture, taken on vacation in Yellowstone, is indicative of our attitudes towards running.
I'm all: How can I make this more entertaining? Grant's all: Business.
Nevertheless, one pillar of our relationship is built each of us spending hours each week to sweat—and the support necessary to be able to do that. Back in the day, we traded babysitting gigs so we could each get in a weekend workout or two before the week started fresh. (And yes, I know I should say parenting, not babysitting, because we're both parents, but parent gigs? Not a thing.)
These days, when we no longer need to babysit, there is at least one conversation daily—usually more—about the workout on the docket or recently completed. What did you do today? Can you set up my bike in the basement? Can you walk the dog so I can swim? Does your calf still hurt? How was your run?
How was your run? That question has been volleyed Grant's way on a very regular basis since the holidays when he started training for Boston.
A few times, his answer will include a few numbers: I ran a 10K PR today; I had 7:xx splits; I was slower than I wanted to be.
"How much?" I'll ask.
"7 seconds a mile," he'll answer.
Because his splits are, to me, crazy fast, empathy is hard to conjure when he just knocked out 12 miles at, say, a 7:47 instead of his planned 7:40. (Envy, of course, is much easier to conjure.)
"That doesn't feel like much to me," I say, "Give yourself some grace."
"It adds up over 26.2 miles," is his reply.
Which is true, but still.
After a long run, I don't really need to ask; his body language tells it all. After he nailed double-digit miles, he showers quickly and is in the kitchen soon thereafter, dumping spinach and protein powder and frozen mango into the blender. After a tough one, he gets vertical on our bed, salt stains on his cheeks, staring into Strava on his phone. (I assume he is; I know better than to look over his shoulder.)
When the run has not gone to plan, I do my best to try to give him space to obsess about it and not judge.
Here's the thing, though: he—and all runners who have Boston qualification on their running to-do list—are entitled to a funk or three after crappy long runs. Because for most of us runners, Boston is a crazy challenging goal that requires years of focus, persistence and, perhaps hardest of all, patience.
Grant qualified for Boston at the Colorado Marathon in 2013—the same spring of the Boston bombings. The support for Boston naturally swelled, and his qualifying time of 3:22:xx wasn't enough.
Five years—and a few marathons—later, he returned to the same course and qualified again with another 3:22:xx. Because of his impending 50th birthday, his time gave him a seven+ minute cushion, and he was in.
Five years—over 1,500 days!—of keeping a soft focus on one tough goal, a goal whose standards have become even harder over time. (And I know plenty of other Boston runners have worked for close to a decade to get to the starting line.) I could no more focus on a goal for five years than our dog could ignore a squirrel hovering on our backyard fence, but maybe that's why we fit together well.
Whether or not he—or anybody—got the BQ is secondary to the fact that they, for years upon years, regularly launched themselves outside their comfort zone to grasp for a ring that their fingertips couldn't yet touch. To me, that is the impressive part, especially when you consider how easily the daily demands of dentist appointments and diaper changings, work deadlines and loads upon loads of laundry can sand down one's competitive edges.
Yes, 7:xx splits invoke envy, but the dedication to continue to sweat and sweat for a marathon time that, depending on weather and the performance of other runners, may or may not come to fruition? I bow to all you Boston runners with crazy amounts of respect—and, in the case of Grant, pride by association.
For a variety of practical, parenting-related reasons, I am not in Boston this morning. I asked him a gazillion questions before he left, then the kids and I sent him off with plenty of sugar—I mean carbs—for the plane.
For the record, he wants to run a solid race. I didn't dig too deeply into that answer prior to his departure; I didn't want to poke the tapering bear.
Here's to a solid race for Grant—and to all the other Boston runners having the day they've imagined as they trained through snow, rain and doubt for years. Regardless of what the time on the clock reads when he crosses the line, I'll be on the phone with him this afternoon, asking the question that is part of our love language: How was your run?