“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama.
One year ago today, I posted Marriage the Marathon, in which I compared the ups and downs of training for a marathon to being in a long-term(10+ years) marriage. If you haven’t read it, you may want to do that before you read the rest of this. One marathon and one more year of marriage later, it seems like a good time to reflect, as I do every year in my anniversary month.
I don’t like to ever pretend that I have a “perfect” marriage, and I know that no one who has been married for over ten years does. I have been very fortunate in that my marriage has never been challenged with any of the top stressors such as financial burden, major health crisis, and infidelity that cause many marriages to dissolve. I’ve never had to see if we could weather through those storms. Despite that, in almost 21 years together and 17 years married, we have had ups and downs….days when you can’t imagine your life without the other person, and days when you’d like to kick them out…there has always been love, but there hasn’t always been like.
My husband and I have fairly different temperaments, and for years, I tried to change parts of his personality that I felt were the main contributor to our down times. But the old saying that you can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself turned out to be true after all. In the last 4 years, I changed myself. Only I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I didn’t set out to change myself…. I just put on my shoes and started running… That journey to becoming a runner has changed me almost as much as motherhood has….certainly more than becoming a doctor has….And over the last few years as I changed, the effects trickled down and my husband changed. He is a different person today than he was just two years ago.
I was listening to a podcast on Another Mother Runner in which they were interviewing Amby Burfoot, a long-time Runner’s World editor about his book First Ladies of Running, which profiles 22 groundbreaking women runners. They asked him about couples whose marriages survived the wife being an elite runner and those that did not, and whether he noted any correlation with whether the husband was also a runner. Amby observed, “The biggest thing that happens is not the fact that one’s spouse is not a runner, per se, that you’re not sharing miles on the road. The biggest thing that happens is running can change all of us substantially, emotionally, psychologically, goals, and outlooks, and I think that emotional and psychological independence that we gain from running and a stronger belief in ourself, I think that can test marriages that aren’t built on a firm foundation of mutual independence and mutual support.” My husband is not a runner, but our marriage has always been built on mutual support, and as the years go by and we both evolve, we have increasingly realized the importance of mutual independence.
As I started running, I finally had the time to sort through everything inside that I hadn’t dealt with. I started writing. I became stronger. I gained a new level of confidence. I reached out to people. I made myself vulnerable and put myself in situations that I would never have put myself in before. I ran towards sanity, I ran towards happiness, I ran towards strength, and I ran towards community. I never asked my husband to run with me. He did do my very first half-marathon with me out of his own choice and didn’t like it…running was not for him. But over the last few years, as he saw me increasingly evolve and try more things, he did as well. And the more we started to have independent lives and interests, the more we craved checking-in with each other, the more we craved time alone together. Over the last couple of months, he started going to yoga with me. Five years ago, if you had told me that my husband would start doing yoga, I would have looked at you with the same disbelief that I would have if you told me that I’d run a marathon. I usually go to yoga about twice a week ….running is still my primary four to five day a week escape. My husband has started to do yoga on his own, more days than I am. I’ll walk into a room and catch him practicing an arm balance. Just the other night, he told me that three times last week he fell asleep while listening to a guided meditation. What???? Who is this man??
I ran my first marathon…that was a finish line I was determined to cross, but I still don’t have any guarantees about how the marathon of my marriage will end….whether or not death do us part will be the finish line or something else. I’m not an expert on marriage or running…. this is just where I’m at now. I know that there have been many years and miles when it has felt like what I would imagine running on “Heartbreak Hill” at the Boston marathon would be like. As for this last year, which was mile 17, and going into 18, we both think it’s been our best mile…for this mile, we have been running in unison rather than in relay….we’re on a smooth downhill coast…. exhilarated and enjoying the wind together.
**Exciting news: I’m going to be in the print June edition of Women’s Running Magazine, which will be on newsstands May 17th. You can find me in two places in the issue. I have a piece I wrote called “I Am A Runner” that will be on the last page called “Parting Shot”. This is my first piece in print. I’m proud of the piece and very excited. They are also featuring me in their column “Blogger On The Run”, which will be in the first ten pages or so of the magazine. Look for me in newsstands, or if you are a subscriber, you will receive the June issue in the mail soon. Also, I don’t put all my online pieces for them in the body of my blogs, but I do update my “Media” tab with everything I write for them. You may enjoy my latest online piece here: Why Yoga Is The Yin To This Runner’s Yang.