“I blame you for this,” I told my husband as I pulled my running clothes on this morning and prepared to squeeze in a 45-minute run before work. I say this most mornings when I am awake before dawn and preparing to ride my bike or go for a run. Or sometimes I say, “This is your fault, you know,” or “Damn you, your secret plan to turn me into you is working.”
As much as I would like to pretend as though I sprang into the world fully formed as the badass athlete I (wish I) am, the truth is that when my husband and I first started dating several years ago, I was the kind of person who stayed up until 3 a.m. most nights, spending most of that time commenting obsessively on Jezebel. I also drank a whole bunch, and I smoked cigarettes and more pot than I feel comfortable admitting to on the internet. (A lot, I’ll just put it like that.) I wasn’t a total mess, as I did go to the gym a few times a week and I had stopped eating fast food and I no longer did any other illicit drugs, but I was not anywhere near as health-conscious as I am now.
Brian, on the other hand, went to sleep early and woke up before dawn. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, ate salads because he liked them and he liked the way they made him feel. Our first road trip was a journey to Cincinnati, where I cheered him on as he ran the Flying Pig Marathon. I’d never thought about running before, beyond to think about how much I had hated it for sports conditioning when I was in high school, but seeing him at the finish line with this almost-delirious look of transcendent joy on his face…well, it made me think that maybe, just maybe, I might like to know what that feels like.
It took about three years, but I finally found out. It was as beautiful and life-changing as I had hoped. More so, even.
The process of getting there was difficult, though, and I feel certain that I would have quit had Brian not been there to guide me. The first time I ever ran, I made it about a block before I felt like belly-flopping on the asphalt and dying. A few months later, he stayed with me through my first 5K and encouraged me to run the entire distance, even though I felt like I was going to puke the whole time. He helped me pick out my first pair of real running shoes.
Brian told me that he loved his healthy lifestyle – all the salads and the running and the early nights and the meditation in the early morning hours while everyone was still asleep – because it made him feel good and because it never felt like deprivation to him. He liked caring for his body and his mind. It was a great source of pleasure for him. Even though part of me resisted going along with it at first, I trusted him because I knew he meant it.
See, he had quit drinking several years before we met. His drinking was the kind of drinking that destroys lives, both of the drinker and those around them, and to this day it is still something I struggle to wrap my head around, that the fit, peaceful man I love existed for so long in such a state of turbulence and self-destruction. I knew he had existed in dark places and he had emerged as “one evolved dude,” as my mother calls him, and I believed him when he told me how changing his life had saved it. So I followed him, and here I am, six years later, getting up early to run, eating vegetables, lifting weights, all that stuff. I can’t remember the last time I smoked anything.
But you know, it’s not as if Brian picked up my sedentary husk, hefted me over his shoulder like a stoned bag of potatoes and dragged me through all those miles and sessions at the gym. After a certain point I understood the pleasures he took in caring for his body, and I became deeply invested in my own health and wellness, with my locus of motivation located squarely inside my own heart. That only intensified when I began to see myself as an athlete. And soon I found that I was strong enough to be able to turn to Brian and offer him the kind of support and motivation he had given me for so long.
A few years ago, Brian was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his knee, the result of an injury he’d incurred in his 30s when he slipped down a wet grassy hill. At about the same time, he said he found himself losing his competitive edge, where he’d show up to races and just not feel like he had it in him to really kick some ass. Instead of taking this as a sign that he needed to hang up the running shoes and join the rest of the middle-aged men on the golf course, we found some treatment options for his knee (which, by the way, have worked splendidly). He had been talking about trying a triathlon for a while, so I encouraged him to sign up. He was reluctant, mainly because of the cost, but I was adamant that I didn’t care about the money and that I just wanted him to be happy. Finally I wore him down, so he got a used road bike and entered his first multi-sport race.
It was love at first tri. He loved it so much that I had no problem with the expenses that did eventually follow – the race fees, the travel costs, the bike and all its attendant equipment. We can afford it, and I want him to be happy. (Besides, he would live like a monk if he could. The guy deserves to indulge in something.) In fact, it is my fault that he is currently in training for Ironman Florida. I told him one day that I knew he was going to want to do an Ironman at some point, and that I was okay with it. He says I planted the seed in his head by saying that, but I think I was just identifying something that was always there. Either way, the blame for what he calls “the folly” rests right on my shoulders, and I am happy to take responsibility for that, because he loves everything about the training process. In turn, he inspires me to train harder for my own races and to reach for higher goals. We talk about the day we will run Boston together, about our plans to do the Keys 50-miler together, about how we will travel to New Zealand where we will do my first Ironman together. No dream is too big for us, not when we are together.
We celebrated our fifth anniversary last weekend, and since then I have been thinking about how our two individual lives have twined together in that time to create a space through which we are capable of accomplishing more together than we are on our own. I mean, we are both pretty great on our own, but together we are pretty amazing. He teaches me to pace myself. I push him to go faster. He helps me have faith in my abilities. I keep him patient. We bounce ideas off each other. He reads my writing and loves that I do this blog. I give him another perspective on his work and admire what he does fiercely. We trade reading materials and have intense conversations over coffee on Sunday mornings. We offer gentle criticism when needed and unqualified support the rest of the time.
In my relationship with him I have found the space to become the kind of woman I always wanted to be, but whenever I try to give him credit for that, he always says that he didn’t do anything, that he just “gave me a little sunlight and water” and that I did all the blossoming on my own.
What makes it even more poignant for me is that I know how badly relationships can go, how a relationship with the wrong person can feel like a waking nightmare or a living death, choose whichever cliche you prefer. I have learned that there is no such thing as standards that are too high for a relationship, and that I would rather be alone than in a bad relationship ever again. Fortunately, because of Brian, I don’t have to make that choice.
So this is my love letter to my husband, my training partner in the endurance race of life. Every day of my life I thank the multiverse for bringing us together, and I look forward to marking many more years with him by my side.
You two are so amazing and inspirational!!! Love to you both and congrats!!!!
Thanks, Jen! *hugs*
Pass the Kleenex!! 🙂
Lovely post and such a great testament to a terrific marriage. I am in my second one, (13 years in) and I am convinced that the mark of a great marriage is one where each person becomes “more than” because of the love and encouragement and support of the other. It is so essential to growth.
My latest book was just published in China and my husband got a freelancer there to send us two copies — then asked the paper’s correspondent there (who I have never met!) to write out phonetically how to congratulate me at our recent party.
Good heavens. I never had that sort of support growing up. I treasure it.
Oh, what a romantic gesture by your husband! So sweet of him to do that. He must be so proud of you.
Apparently! I am not as excited as I probably should be…it’s made no material difference to my life at all. But I’m happy it happened.
I love this and both of you! I love seeing you transform and grow, but in a way that has helped you reach down and release the “real” you. And, of course, I agree with B; a little sunshine and water certainly helps grow the soul — but I’m so happy he was there, supporting you every step of the way. Congratulations to you both!
Aww, thanks Kat. *hugs*
Happy anniversary! I also just celebrated 5 years of marriage to my husband, and it certainly hasn’t been easy but I’m so happy that I’ve made that life-long commitment to him. May you both have many more years together!
Happy anniversary to you as well!
Thank you for this! I consider myself a pretty hardcore feminist, but then I wonder if I’m some kind of poser because I’m also married and desperately in love with my husband. I love hearing other strong women express admiration and affection for their husbands. You two sound like the perfect team!
If being desperately in love with your husband is anti-feminist, then I must be Phyllis Schafly. 🙂
In all seriousness, I think that loving another person, especially when it is love bounded in admiration and respect for who that person is, is a very powerful thing no matter what form it takes, and so it shouldn’t be considered a sign of weakness when that form happens to be the romantic love a woman has for a man.
Why is it raining on my face?
This is incredibly sweet! Congrats on 5 years!
Wow. I knew, but I didn’t understand. Congratulations.
Awwww. What a wonderful homage to your lives together.
That is just the nicest thing I have read, it has really restored my faith in the possibility of a good relationship. Thank you and congratulations on what you both have.
Awwww, I think that’s the best love letter I have ever read. You two sound amazing together, so here’s to many more joyful years. 🙂
This is simply beautiful.
Such an awesome tribute for your husband. My husband and I also love to train together and have done so since before we got married nearly 20 years ago!!
“No dream is too big for us, not when we are together”
How lovely. Congratulations to you both 🙂
And what a perfect love letter that was. I think that the best gift you can give anyone is to make them a better, happier person, and you two find a way to give that gift to each other every day. Here’s to many more years of races, leafy greens, and gigantic smiles for the both of you!
Beautifully written, Caitlin, and happy anniversary to you both! Will be more than happy to host you down here in New Zealand for your first Ironman. 🙂
This was so beautiful and sweet- you are so lucky to have each other!
I’m relatively new here, but…it really is all about who you have on your team, isn’t it? You two are blessed to have each other!
Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story. My husband (of 3 years now) and I work out together as much as we can. It really is inspiring to be able to lift each other up and watch each other get stronger and healthier in our journey together.
Beautiful and very endearing:)
I loved reading this! Congrats to both of you. Made me feel all warm inside 🙂
This is beautiful! Happy anniversary!
Don’t tell anyone but this saucy gal got a little misty. So happy for y’all! Love seeing that picture of you two being badasses together.
Don’t tell anyone but this saucy gal got a little misty. Happy anniversary! Love seeing that pic of y’all being badasses together.
Aww this is so sweet!! I feel the same about my husband – he introduced me to lifting and changed my life 😀
This is a beautiful post.
You two are lucky to have found each other because it sounds like he brings out the best in you and you in him, and isn’t that just what love is all about?
Amazing tribute to your partner. You put into words, really beautifully, some of the best parts about some of the best relationships I’ve known.
this was beautiful!
Awww you guys are really cute! Great story! Love your blog!
You are incredible. I recently found your blog and it has now become one of my favourite ones to read.
“I have learned that there is no such thing as standards that are too high for a relationship, and that I would rather be alone than in a bad relationship ever again. Fortunately, because of Brian, I don’t have to make that choice.”
I couldn’t have agreed more. I had such bad luck with relationships for so many years that I had all but given up. In fact, I made a conscious decision to avoid relationships completely because I was tired of being disappointed. Of course, that’s exactly when I met my fiance. He supported me through quitting two really respectable jobs because I was doubting my career path, and encouraged me to pursue my dream in starting a baking business. He also wakes up with me at the crack of dawn to “escort” me to my baking facilities and works on his own start-up beside me while I bake. When it comes to running, he’s challenged my confidence issues and pushed me to try harder and believe that I can do better. I couldn’t have asked for more in a life partner and it always makes me happy to see others who have found themselves in a similar situation.
So yeah, I may borrow some of your themes when writing my wedding vows. 🙂
Thank you! And I am so happy that you’ve found someone who supports you as you pursue your dreams. It’s scary enough to take that step from the mainstream way of doing things to pursue your own business, but having to do it without the support of your partner would make it just about impossible. Good for you, and for him for being so supportive of you.
Aw love this!!! It is great and the exact same way I feel. We are great on our own…but this other person makes us even better (just as we make them better! haha)
This is probably totally off topic, but I am also a former obsessive Jezebel commenter 😛 Though, I left that community quite some time ago. Two years? Three maybe?
However, reading things like this makes my heart swell. It’s so sweet.
Thank you! And hey there, fellow Jezebel refugee! I ended up leaving a few years ago – I can’t remember how many – after I was stripped of my star. I still read the blog regularly (especially Erin Gloria Ryan’s stuff) but I don’t participate in the community anymore.
I’m definitely crying, here. This is exactly, exactly how I feel about my relationship with my husband of 8 months, and my story of athletics strangely mirrors yours. My husband has encouraged me every step of the way, from my first nonstop mile run last June to my first 5K last August to my decision last night to start training for a half marathon. 🙂 I am new to your blog but I have spent the last couple of weeks reading it obsessively. Thank you for what you do!
Aw, thank you! And I’m glad to hear you have a similar relationship with your husband. It really makes a huge difference to have a supportive partner in your corner. It’s like nothing feels impossible when you’ve got that.