“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.” Edgar Allan Poe.
On our tenth anniversary, I made a toast to my husband, “Ten down, ten to go.”
“What does that mean?” was his natural response. I told him that twenty years was long enough to be married to someone….that we should “go out on a high before things take a turn for the worse…like Seinfeld and the other shows that do their finale before everyone is sick of them….then we’ll have everyone wondering “what happened, they seemed like they were going so strong”….and we can remain friends before we have a chance to hate each other…
It was a joke of course, and partly it was because at that time which was six and a half years ago, I was in the thick of raising three small children. Another ten years together seemed like it would be a million miles away….our twenty year anniversary didn’t seem like it would sneak up on us before we know it.
When I was writing my Mile Shortage post, about dedicating each mile of my marathon to a different person in my life, I wrote that my husband would be either mile 16 for the number of years we have been married to each other, or mile 20, for the number of years we have been together. He read it and said, “I want to be mile 26.” I told him he couldn’t be mile 26…that is definitely for my aunt. “Then I want to be mile 20, not 16. Isn’t mile 20 supposed to be the wall? I want to be the wall mile so you can get there and pass it.”
On Saturday December 19th, for the first time ever, I ran 20 miles (actually, 20.5 to be exact.) Twenty miles! If just a few years ago you had told me that I would do that one day, I would have called you crazy and delusional. When I went out for that first one mile three and a half years ago, if you had said that you will one day run 20 miles, and in some ways it won’t be any harder than that one mile you just ran, I would have said impossible. Even after that first half-marathon, when I crossed the finish line with tears and exhilaration, if you had told me twenty is coming, I would have vehemently said no.
Sometimes, things just sneak up on you. Like the years that you have been spending with your partner and suddenly they are approaching 20. Like the stray cat in our backyard that we started reluctantly feeding a few months ago when we saw him getting scrawnier every day. Now I have come to rely on his presence at the backyard door every morning before my run… waiting to be fed… now he has warmed his way into all our hearts and there are almost more pictures of the stray cat than of margaritas in my phone. Like when you pick up your teenage son from highschool and you look over and suddenly he is sitting in the front seat next to you sleeping…and the last time you really remember him falling asleep in the car he was in the back seat in his 5 point harness car seat….and this sudden unexpected acceleration of time before your eyes leaves you no choice but to pull-over your car to just sit and stare at his sleeping face for a few minutes before you can move on.
I won’t say that the twenty miles were easy, because they definitely were not….but they sort of just snuck up on me and they were there before I even knew it. The first 3 miles were hard…it still takes that many miles to get into my rhythm…. mile 3 – 10 were joy, bliss, freedom. And then from mile 10 on, it started to get tiring. By about mile 14, I was definitely having some soreness in my glutes and hamstrings….I could feel them with every step. By mile 16, I had a little numbness that was shooting down my entire right leg and I felt it with every foot strike. I tried my little distraction games like alternating between listening to music and not ….talking to my running companion….but none of it was working. So finally I just said, “hello, legs…. hello muscle soreness…hello numbness….I feel you, I know you are there….you have made your presence known,….but we are going to just go on one step at a time and get this done….because you f&ckers are no match for my determination.” I stared straight ahead, and before I knew it, we had passed mile 20 but still had another 1/2 mile to go to get to our starting point.
I had finished 20.5 miles. 20.5 f&cking miles!!! And I knew that despite the soreness and the numbness, that once I had accepted their presence and decided to move on, I could have kept going….I could have gone to 26.2, but it wasn’t marathon day after all.
The anniversary joke, my husband mentions it all the time. At the subsequent anniversary, he said, “hey, 11 down, only 9 more to go.” Yeah…I thought, 9 years is still plenty. At our 15 year anniversary, “only 5 more years to go….maybe you want to rethink this…maybe you want to renegotiate.” At our last anniversary, “only 4 more years to go.” Yes…there are only 3.5 years left to go….what seemed like so long away is sneaking up on me so fast…I am in the home stretch….But, no, I’m not ready to be done… I want more miles, I want more years, I want to renegotiate.
**I think you have all read the post Mile Shortage by now, but if you are new to the blog and have not, here it is: Mile Shortage. If you have not read my essay Marriage the Marathon on Women’s Running Magazine, here it is: Why Marriage Is the Ultimate Marathon.