The Husband Runs!

[NOTE:  There are no brilliant epiphanies or words of wisdom here.  Most of the time I write, to get things out that are inside, to help me process or figure things out.  I’m often (as is the case here) not even sure how I feel about what it is I’m writing about.]

My husband runs once a year, he tells me.  He’s not a runner, never was, doesn’t have the runner physique and is kind of shaped and sized like me, only a little more svelte.  In high school he was a wrestler, and that was over half his life ago.  He does this 5k in Rhode Island just to make me happy, because I do it too, it’s a vacation thing that we do together.  It’s lovely on vacation to get the time to be able to be active – even moderately so – together.  Things like climbing Miantonomi Tower, taking long walks to the farmer’s market, the beach, nowhere at all.  So since 2014, which is when I began really to run in earnest and found this race, he’s done this 5k.

He doesn’t train for these.  Not at all.  The first year, he did it in a cotton tee shirt, baggy cargo shorts – and boat shoes.  He didn’t have sneakers.  We got him some.  He didn’t use them.

This year, I signed him up for a 5k that was happening the same time I did that ultra (the one I wrote about in my previous posting), the week before the Rhode Island one that I signed him up for.  Thereby doubling his annual distance!  He did the first 5k, and by that point when it began, I was really hurting – I had over 10 hours in, and he lapped me a couple of times, but whatever.  Two different races.  He was in more pain than I was after that one, and he said he wasn’t even going to do the second one.

All week he was iffy, but at the end he did it.  This second one – the Rhode Island one – the first year, I was faster than he was.  Well, of course.  I was in serious marathon training mode, and he was in boat shoes.  Last year, he did the 5k but I did the half marathon that came with it.  This year… no training, two year old sneakers that weren’t even right for him, he beat me.  By something like 5 minutes.  I tried to shrug it off and it wasn’t that hard, I was a week out from an ultra and, more importantly, I had a bunch of friends at the finish who cheered me on loudly – something I almost never have when I run, and the buoyancy factor from that was amazing.  And the hubs – he was better after that second race, we climbed Miantonomi Tower and he wasn’t really in pain at all.

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We also walked a lot, Newport lends itself to that.  To farmer’s markets, just around.  To Goat Island for the sunset.  And we got him stride checked and fitted for shoes.  Hoka Clifton 3 for him (and for me!  Hokas all around!).  Turns out my feet are bigger than his for running, because I need to size up.  And Providence.  We walked all over Providence – from the ferry to… somewhere downtown… doubling back and over the river, past RISD, up that hill whatever it is, past Roger Williams memorial, to Rhode Runner.

On our last weekend of vacation, we spent it in New Jersey – Atlantic City and North Wildwood, and I looked for a race.  A couple of years ago Stone Harbor had a mile-long race” on the beach with your dog, and while it totally fell apart as far as a race goes, it turned into something different – so much wonderfulness as people and their dogs played in the sand and the surf.  I was hoping to see another one since we had a couple of pups with us.  Well, I didn’t see anything there, but the very next day was the Chickie’s and Pete’s 5k on the Atlantic City boardwalk.  And it had to have been a sign – start and finish was right where we were staying.  So, I asked Chris and instead of the grumbling, he agreed.  Well, I just spend $120 on shoes for him, so….  It’s a great, fun race.  (Boardwalk is awesome, though it got really crowded.  Plastic cup, tee shirt, crab fries and beer, and ice cream.)  He did complain about being worried about running on the boardwalk as we walked it the night before, and how he was tired and he was going to walk the whole thing.

And… you got it.  He beat me again.  By about three and a half minutes this time, and we both sort of PR’d.  (His, yes.  Me, not a lifetime PR, but one that’s really great for me, right now.)  And then we had ice cream, and beer, and crabfries. It was really fun.

I’m glad he is running.  He hasn’t since, but I have hope… he does express his intent to, but I know he has a lot on his plate.  It just makes me… edgy, that he is faster than me every single time with NO training.

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Sweltering Summer 8-hour and Marathon.  Pittsfield, Mass.  I’m still processing this.

I needed this race.  After Hatfield McCoy and Rosaryville, I needed a personal running ‘win’.  And after losing two dogs in one day and being in a car accident two days after that (the week before this race), I needed a boost.  The Berkshires are my happy place.  This race is extremely tiny and has the most understanding, encouraging, empathic RD ever.  His answer when I told him I needed to at least get to 26.2, hence my need for a super early start: “Great!  Let’s make it happen!”  He will do anything to help you reach your personal goals.  Well, maybe not everything, but he will allow runners an early start, which I gladly took (and needed).  I really needed to set myself up for success – to have a goal distance of more than 5 or 10k ,and to do it.  I needed to not downgrade from that distance running goal – something I flubbed in my last two races, meaning every long distance race since June.  Not to flake out or take a shorter distance because of the heat or whatever.  And, well, it was ugly and it took so long, and at one point I thought I wouldn’t make it and tried to prepare myself for that… but I finished what I wanted (the marathon) and then went beyond it. This race was my two year marathonniversary.

Despite the relief I feel that I did what I set out to do, despite the ‘win’, I was really not happy with my own performance. Depending on what measurement you go by (there were some issues with the timing chip not registering my laps for a few laps before they caught it), I managed 27.7 (official) -28.5 (Garmin) miles.  I also had 2 Garmin watches so I was also tracking my distance, and while they aren’t going to be perfect either they’re pretty accurate. And the chafing. I did everything right to not have it and dear god I’m walking like a bowlegged scarecrow.

But as I’m sitting here, what makes me happy with his race isn’t really how far I go. (Okay, it kind of is. When you’re the slowest one and are always DFL, at least being able to reach some kind of goal for yourself matters.). Get this.  We together, 23 5k runners, 29 marathon finishers and 66 ultra folks – ran 8,611 laps of Clapp Park. We raised I don’t know how much exactly, thousands of dollars, for Moments House, a local charity/foundation which provides all services for cancer patients, whatever they need, even wigs, all free.  So what made me happy was, being a part of something bigger – we together, ran all those laps and raised money or contributed to funds raised and awareness for Moments House. And I was a part of all those laps run. It brings tears to my eyes. And I love how the same people keep coming back and we have become something of a family. It’s a tiny, limited race and many of us are repeat participants, and over the past two years (3 for some, it began in 2013), we have become something of a family.  People know each other year to year.  And it tracks (no pun intended) with just… everything.  The peace and wholeness of the Berkshires, the philosophy that Benn and the Family Griff exude, the kind of inclusion and runners this race attracts.  It’s more than a race. Usually I sign up for races and I never see the elites, let alone talk to them. Never know the RD, let alone his parents (who came to me and told me how sorry they were that two of my dogs died the week before) or who does what. Never (when you’re me) can count on any kind of course support after the first couple miles. And this is just the opposite.  I mean, people gave me props for being out so long (news flash: it’s because I’m so slow, if I were normal I could have started with them to finish the same distance on time; it’s something I’m actually ashamed of, not something to congratulate me for).  Larry Macon, who’s in his 70’s, who has done more than 1700 marathons (yes, you read that right), was doing THIS race.  He congratulated me partway through – I told him I hadn’t completed anything yet, don’t congratulate me yet – and then on one of my final laps, told me “you’re still my hero”.  I’m his hero?  Just replaying this in my head makes me basically cry all over again.  So, this. Not just about the running and the racing and the goals but about the entirety of the experience. I talk this race up and people just don’t get all the things, how running around in circles translates to awesomeness – until they do it.

My husband also did the 5k, that was a first this year; he is not a runner but did it for me. It was awesome to share the experience with him. And then we swam in a beautiful mountain lake and had the best wings in the Berkshires for dinner. Pittsfield has its issues – namely, it’s a city in the Berkshires and doesn’t have the tourist money that the towns around it have – but it is beautiful and its downtown is beginning to come back.  As a western Mass native, I always feel at home here and lose a piece of my heart each time I have to leave.

This is what I told my fellow participants (race director, volunteers at the aid station, fellow runners):  

Thank you. For being you. Whether you are part of race staff, racers I talked to and who encouraged me, racers I never talked to but saw you dozens of times at the aid station and as you lapped me. All of you. For making the slowest and worst of us – not just a turtle but the tip of the tail of the turtle – feel welcome, like we matter and it’s ok that we are there too. For supporting us with smiles and positivity when we are hitting the wall or feel like the wall fell on top of us. (It’s not just me, right?) For giving us not just a race but an experience, a family of sorts, and the perspective that we are all intertwined, we are all part of something bigger, greater.