It started with a first date. Yes, that's right. An innocent, check-each-other-out Sunday morning meet-up at Starbucks in May 2008, where I found myself sitting across from a disarmingly handsome former Marine. We fell into an easy conversation and I liked him right away - even wanted to impress him, so when the conversation turned to fitness and he mentioned that he liked to run, I may have ever-so-slightly exagerrated when I called myself "a runner" and I told him about "my 3 mile loop" from my house. In my defense, there is a 3 mile loop from my house and I'd run/walked/staggered around it lots of times - just trying to get out and do something, but never thinking about pacing, distance or any of that. At the time I'd never heard of a Garmin, didn't know what a tempo run was and if you'd said anything to me about a fartlek, I'd have been offended. We left the date with a promise that he'd call to plan a real date, and I made a mental note to step up the effort on that loop.
Second date, Monday night (Memorial weekend) and we're sitting in a local bar listening to a two-man band, having drinks and getting to know each other when he mentions that there is a 5K run coming up that he's planning on doing in a couple of weeks - do I want to do it with him? *gulp* Luckily I managed to keep myself from cursing out loud (not really a good idea on a first real date - even though I do at times have a mouth like a sailor) and instead managed a non-commital shrug and something like, "Um sure" before quickly changing the subject and thinking that would be the end of it.
Proof I didn't know my future husband very well yet.
The next morning I checked my e-mail was slapped in the face by this: "Thank you for registrering for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure..." This time I couldn't stop the 4 letter word from escaping my lips as I opened the email and discovered I had exactly 12 days to train for my very first road race. Now I'm in a bit of a panic. I am not one of those pretty runners. You know the ones: they show up at races in full makeup, with glossy ponytails and matching outfits. This is not me. I'm attractive enough, even cute at times, but running is NOT one of those times. I sweat, I work hard, my face turns red, my hair goes limp and it's not pretty. It's not second date material. I still haven't let this man see me without makeup - and he wants to RUN with me at 7am?! Sweet Jesus. At least I'll know where I stand when it's over.
For the next 12 days I trained my ass off. Literally maybe. I had no idea how to properly train and I'm probably lucky I didn't hurt myself. (I later learned I was wearing improper shoes, a size too small.) I just ran. Every day. In my all-wrong-for-me-shoes.
When race day rolled around we lined up at the start and though I'm not religious I think I prayed. Maybe a lot. The gun went off and off we went, my date insisting on running beside me the entire time. (Dammit! No walking!) But you know what? As we made our way through the course, I started to feel more and more relaxed and even exhilarated. There were bands and cheer squads and tons of ordinary people lined up on the sidelines cheering. For us! There was a well placed water stop with a whole bunch of volunteers handing out water cups and yelling things like, "You look great - keep it up!" There were the other runners and the general feeling that we are ALL runners, no matter the shape, size or pace - we are all in the same boat, and you could feel the cameraderie in the air. (To this day that's my favorite thing about racing.) And at this event, particularly inspiring are the numerous breast cancer survivors who don pink shirts and run right alongside everyone else. We got through the race in a little over 30 minutes. (31ish, I think - I wasn't into times yet, and we didn't have chips.) Crossing that finish line with the cheering crowd, I don't know if I've ever felt better than that.
Until the very next moment when my date, Jamie, took me in his arms, kissed me and said, "Man, I really dig you." And that, my friends, is how I fell in love with running *and* with my husband.
Here is a shot of the 2 of us coming up to the finish line of that first race. I'm the one in pink and black looking near death, and Jamie is the one next to me in gray looking effortless:
And here we are almost 2 years later getting ready to run the Dallas Rock n Roll half marathon, our 2nd of 2010: