If someone told 20-year-old me that I’d one day run a marathon with my husband, I’d say they were delusional.
My husband played sports most of his life and ran the 100- and 200-meter sprints in high school. I, on the other hand, tried out for my junior high track team and was “promoted” to assistant manager, replacing my gym shorts with a clipboard. I didn’t run again until adulthood.
My dad died while I was in my 20s, and I used distance running as a form of therapy. It’s since been 12 years, a couple of triathlons, and a few half marathons later, and running has become my all-time favorite hobby. I’m incredibly slow and still mostly unathletic, which is why I’d been too scared to run a marathon. But when New Balance reached out to see if I’d be interested in a spot on their team for the TCS New York City Marathon, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
I knew that if I were going to train and accomplish this goal, I’d need one person by my side: my husband, Nate.
So we set out to run our first-ever marathon as a couple.
Training began in July. In New Orleans. Lovely. We slugged through the painfully humid runs together, and while it would seem like the most terrible activity in the world, we actually enjoyed training as a pair. I received the tutelage of John Honerkamp, founder and CEO of J.R. Honerkamp Consulting & Coaching, whose online training program was a huge support for Nate and me. Basically, we’d get a daily email that consisted of our running distance, along with a helpful tip, and his personal expertise was an email or phone call away.
During this time, there were a few surprising things about training as a pair that I liked.
First, the long-distance running forced us to stay in on weekends, when we’d otherwise be out socializing. There were a lot of sober movie nights.
I also loved that it gave us a mutual goal: Ours was to finish the race and run the entire time, without focusing on speed. We planned to start together, but since Nate’s naturally faster than I am, we’d break off to run at our own comfortable pace and catch up in a tent, post-race.
Finally, I loved that leading up to the race was exciting and scary and gave us something new and healthy to focus on and talk about. We planned meals, shared playlists, stretched while watching our favorite shows, and traded tips on everything from where to find the city’s best public bathrooms on our run route to superior chafing balms. Romantic, right?
On marathon day, we got to the site four hours early and spent the morning huddled together in a corner. We were more nervous than on our wedding day.
We read the paper, stretched, and calmed each other’s nerves. When it was time to line up, Nate and I started the race together and held hands while walking to the starting line. How cheesy is that? Yep, it was definitely more nerve-racking than going down the aisle.
When the starting cannon went off and we began the race, it felt exhilarating. I expected Nate to zoom ahead of me (understandably), but we ran together at a relaxed pace for the first 5 miles, which helped to shake out the nerves and was the ideal way to start our first marathon together.
The next 17 miles were a blur of exhausted exhilaration, and I loved every minute.
Even though I wasn’t running with Nate, I thought about him often. In a circumstance that could be competitive for some people, I wanted nothing more than for him to have the best run of his life.
It wasn’t until the very end that I felt tired. I had received so many great tips during my training, and my favorite was to dedicate specific miles to loved ones as you struggle. For me, this didn’t come until mile 24, which I silently dedicated to my mom. I thought about how she always has a positive attitude no matter what the circumstance entails, and I vowed to do the same at that moment. Big grins and high-fives got me through. I dedicated 25 to my dad. I know that he would have loved to have been there to cheer me on and that my drive and persistence comes from him.
During the very last 385 yards to the finish, I thought about Nate and the hard work we put into this race and how lucky I was to have him with me for a bucket-list accomplishment. And then I saw his face.
I hear about and have seen people get emotional during marathons, though I felt nothing but pure joy the entire race. (Well, joy with a side of shin splints.) But when I saw my husband waiting for me at the finish line, we both choked up, and gave each other a huge hug.
After meeting a group of friends for a celebration, Nate and I had our own two-person party and clinked a glass of wine at our hotel bar. We talked about the day and went over every amazing moment; weirdly, it felt a lot like rehashing our wedding day so many years ago.
Within a week of the race we already decided that we’re going to do another. Running as a couple is something I envision us doing until we’re old and gray. But for now, I’m ready to tackle #2 with my #1.
Anne Roderique-Jones is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Vogue, Marie Claire, Southern Living, Town & Country, and Condé Nast Traveler. Twitter: @AnnieMarie_ Instagram: @AnnieMarie_