Monday, February 11, 2008
I met my husband, Michael, through, what else, but running. We were both running for a local running club. I was in the novice group and he was in the elite group. How envious I was of that group of select athletes who were given a uniform and a pair of shoes and were chosen to compete for the club. I can't believe the things I did then...like riding my bike 10 miles to practice or getting 6 hours of sleep every night, going out with friends just about every night of the week, trying to eat less than 1200KCal a day because I thought I was chunky . No wonder I never made the elite team!
Even before I started dating Michael, he was helping me with my running. I must have looked so ridiculous at the workouts because I would always hammer the strides and then bomb during the outrageously long intervals. With that group it was really the only opportunity to run fast, and boy did I love running fast. Mike tried to key me into the fact that maybe it wasn't so cool to hammer the strides...This was my first lesson. Later it was, "Jen, you may not want to always "win" the workouts." The worst lesson was when I started running the 800 and he gave me the race strategy of, "Go as hard as you can to the 600...don't worry about that last 200, just see what you have for a 600." Of course, for those of you who have run an 800 know, running as hard as possible to 600m makes for a very ugly last 200m!
Michael has helped me in so many ways--being my workout partner, finding me good coaching, calming me down before races, making sure I'm eating well and taking care of myself, becoming a massage therapist to help keep me healthy (how lucky am I?); but perhaps the biggest thing he has ever done for me is make me believe that I am something better. He has this unquestioning belief that I can do whatever I want, even when I'm not so sure. He has always been in the background supporting me, for reasons I will never know. Why would he ever think that I would ever amount to anything in running? Yet, when I first ran 2:03 he told me that if I ran 2:01 I should consider running full time just to see what's in there...about a week later I ran 2:01 and that season I ran 2:00 about 10 times! So began my glorious life as "professional" runner.
I think a lot of young athletes, maybe even older ones, too, think that the sport is very glamorous and that the "pros" make a ton of money doing exactly what we love to do. Well, kids, don't drop out of school or quit your jobs unless you are committed to a life of 10% glory and 90% grueling work, injuries, and financial instablity. Believe me, that 10% makes it 100% worth it...but it is not for the faint of heart. It takes sacrifice on the part of the athlete, but also on every one else in their lives. You can't do it without support.
When Mike and I were first married, 10 years ago, we received a beautiful set of silverware. I loved it...that girly part in me just loved the nice forks and spoons. It cost a ton of money. I had a small sponsorship deal at the time, but not nearly enough to cover expenses, and one day I took that beautiful set of silver and sold it to pay for a trip to a race. I guess it was worth it because I ran really well. This exactly sums up my life, our lives with running--Selling a wedding gift to run a race to run a good time.
And so on this Valentine's Day, this day of celebrating love, I will be on a plane to Arkansas for a race; but this is the life that we signed up for, and there is no better gift than running as a team.