Five years ago today, I married the only man who could ever keep up with me.
Happy fifth anniversary to Chris and I! We’ve known each other for ten years, finally convinced him to shit or get off the pot four years later and a year after that we were married. Our wedding day took place on an overcast and chilly October day that ended in far too many grasshopper drinks on the dance floor.
And I really don’t dance. Unless you keep pushing grasshopper drinks at me.
With the Chicago Marathon coming up this weekend and our anniversary, I thought I would share the story of a young couple – in love – who decided to run the marathon. Together.
(warning: if you are young and in love do not attempt this)
Chris convinced me that I needed to run the marathon with him. Understand that while I’ve always been a runner, my longest run had been 1 hour. I started triathlons in 1999 and did nothing longer an Olympic distance race. So, in 2001, when Chris encouraged (begged) me to do the marathon with him, I thought to myself:
Why the heck would someone want to run that far?
(sometimes I still think that)
Anyhow, Chris had a goal going into the race – he wanted to break 4 hours. Previously he had run the marathon in 4:30. Now, Chris is a very strong athlete. But distance running is not his thing. Sure, he has a history of ripping out a 1:20ish half marathon but double the distance and you get more than double trouble. What you get is a grown man laying on the Queen K curled up next to a traffic cone at mile 23 telling me that he just wanted to take a nap.
At the time we were young and – like most young people in sport – prone to doing very, VERY stupid things. For example, starting a marathon training program approximately 6 weeks prior to the race. You read that right: we started training for the marathon with 6 weeks to go.
At most. It could have been 5!
Chris was the mastermind behind this training plan: we ran long two days a week, Monday and Wednesday. That would be Monday and Wednesday of the same week. Basically we were running over 40 miles within 2 days. And doing a shorter run on the weekend.
The only thing that saved us from injury was that we did the running on a crushed limestone path. That, and youth. Every Monday and Wednesday we would head out to Herrick Lake, run up to 2 hours and 45 minutes and then stumble home to eat a lot. I remember running in the woods late into the night, one night the sky was so clear and the moon was so bright.
I will never forget that run.
But perhaps I’ll never forget it because how can you forget the time you went running with no water, no gel for over 20 miles. And how can you do this for every single long run? Better yet, how did we not perish out there?! How? Because I was 24 years old. At that age, you can do all sorts of stupid shit to your body. And do it again the next day.
The marathon rolled around. No taper, no nutrition plan. Clearly things were bound to go well. We had no idea what pace we trained at because back then we had no Garmins (back in my day we just ran by feel – GASP!) but we knew we wanted to break 4 hours.
It was like all the pieces were falling right into place.
I remember standing at the start line and thinking – all these people want to run 26.2 miles. And I am one of them!? What the hell am I doing here? But I was there for Chris. Oh Chris. Someone should have told him that running a marathon on a warm October day in a black shirt is not really the best idea. But what did I know. I was wearing long sleeves!
It took us about 10 minutes to cross the timing mat. And once we did it was like a sea of legs moving up and down on the pavement. Legs attached to bodies of all ages, shapes, sizes. Triathlon is sexy. Marathoning is downright ugly. I’m sorry if this offends anyone. But there is nothing sexy about shorty shorts on a man and unshaved legs.
The Chicago Marathon is a classic. You wind through all different neighborhoods in the city, the cultures literally coming alive on the street. The most distinct memory being the dragons roaming the streets in Chinatown. The crowds were vibrant, the runners were fresh. Things were going well – we were feeling good and on pace through the half marathon.
And then, here’s the surprise you didn’t see coming...something happened. The static energy from the earlier miles faded into a hush and drone of legs shuffling, barely moving forward. Each set of eyes read the pain of underpreparation, overpacing and improper fuel plan.
Sure enough, it was around mile 18 when Chris started falling apart. He didn’t hit the wall, he ran full speed right into it like a cartoon character going splat and sliding down.
Which meant I stopped.
I can’t go any further.
There we were standing on the sidewalk at mile 18. Off the race course, with Chris complaining about his quads. He was cramping. Which I can only imagine was from the impeccable fuel plan that we were following:
We might have had a gel. Somewhere along the way.
I was feeling fine. I didn’t find the marathon hard just a really long way to run. Can’t we just get this over with? Who wants to run long and slow? What fun is that? And now that Chris was sitting on the sidewalk the fun factor went down even further.
To add insult to injury, just as Chris said would happen at some point during the day, grandma in a purple jogging suit cruised right past me.
Seeing Chris stopped, defeated, I did what any supportive girlfriend would do. I told him to get walking. We walked a little then ran a little until mile 20 when I had enough. The thought of 6 more miles of walk/run/walk/run was only prolonging the misery. And that’s when I said something to this effect:
You have got to get your ass moving because I am not going to be out here all day walking.
I don’t remember what happened from there but I remember getting to mile 26 and thinking to myself amen sweet jesus the finish line! The last .2 miles Chris found some steam to pick it up through the finish line. And when he tried to grab my hand at the finish line all I could think was stop messing around and let’s get this thing done already!
By some miracle, with all that walking, we crossed the line in 3:59.
Chris met his goal. And I vowed to never run a marathon again (unless, of course, 5 years later it was preceded by a 112 mile bike ride).
Nine years later, here I am finally asking Chris what happened in that race.
I wore different socks on race day. I got blisters and it really slowed me down.
I don’t know but the coach in me wonders….maybe it was the fact that we only trained for 6 weeks, had no taper, no fuel plan and trained at god only knows what pace maybe just MAYBE all of that was it and not the damn socks!
Then I asked if he remembered anything else.
Yes, my ass was hurting.
And, you were so angry at me.
Ah, the truth comes out. I ask him if he remembers anything I said.
You said I was boring you, that you had enough of waiting for me. You kept saying ‘let’s go.’
And though I don’t remember it, I can say with certainty that I am guilty of that. All of that.
Since then, we have covered many miles together. Five years ago today I remember the morning of our wedding we went for a run. Yes, it was on my workout schedule. It said to run 50 minutes any way I wanted. And I wanted to run with my to-be husband. We ran at the Arboretum, in tights and gloves and me with my purple fleece hat. I looked back in my log to see if there was anything notable about the run. No comments, just an entry that we covered 7 miles in 52 minutes. The next day, the day after our wedding and about 100 drinks later, I was scheduled to do an hour of whatever I wanted. My comments read took the day off!
I suppose I was enjoying the first day of life as Mrs. Waterstraat. Or nursing a pretty wicked hangover.
The only PR I hold in the house is the marathon. Everything else is owned by Chris. And I like it that way. My dad once told me that any man was going to have to do a lot of running to catch up to me. Well, I found a runner. And he’s not only caught up to me, but caught me and since then I’ve been chasing him.
So here’s to many more miles together! Can’t say that I wish any more of them will be in a marathon but maybe when I’m 70 I’ll put on my purple jogging suit and join him.