A half marathon will really take it out of you. I think this is true for everyone, because regardless of the age, experience, or level of fitness of the runner, everyone in our hotel was limping the next morning. Clearly, the human musculoskeletal system was not designed to endure all of that mileage, at least not all at once. I approached the concierge and asked him where the cash machine was. He pointed around the corner, and as I hobbled away he and his buddy started clapping and cheering, “you’re almost there, you’re almost there!” Hardee har, har.
Running (at the end) was painful. Walking was painful. Going up and down stairs was painful. sitting was painful. Getting up after sitting (or going to the bathroom, or stopping, or falling) was painful. But peeps, it was nothing in comparison to the ice bath.
That’s right. I took a hotel ice bath after the race. We literally emptied the ice machine on our floor and dumped the whole thing into a few inches of water in our tub. I’m glad I forced my traumatized muscles into the bath, but honestly it was painful. When you pray for numbness to come, and you gasp to take a breath, that’s pain, y’all.
But it was there, in the midst of the ice, that I began to contemplate the significance of thirteen miles and thirteen months, which is essentially the length of Husband’s deployment (give or take).
The start line was filled with trepidation, and miles one and two came off with a burst of adrenaline. Mile three we got into a groove. And that’s where I am today. So what does this mean for mile five (free beer)? That will be around the time Husband might get to come home for a visit. What about mile eight when I was looking for my cheerleaders and mile nine when I hit the wall? Will I finally start to slow down? And what does it mean for mile eleven (all uphill, baby)? The parallels surprised me.
But I didn’t have long to think about all that, because it was time we rewarded ourselves for our journey. With meat. Beautiful Brazilian men walking around offering us meat on a stick. All kinds of meat. Chicken meat. Pork meat. Beef meat. Sausage meat. Multifarious bacon-wrapped meat. And lamb meat. And we sat, and we ate, and we were happy. Of course, we couldn’t get up from the table because our legs had become so completely paralyzed that we needed assistance to make it out the door. But it was worth it. So worth it.
I didn’t think about the thirteen mile-months much again until this morning when I had a chance to Skype with Husband. He’s doing so well and frankly, so are we. As we enter mile three, we are hitting our groove, finding our pace, and setting our stride. We have the stiffness of the first two miles behind us. The conversation went more like an in-person at-home exchange, where we handled administrative details and shared about our day, and anticipated our upcoming weeks. Husband was prattling on and I initially started to roll my eyes like I normally would over the level of detail he feels he constantly needs to micromanage, even from the Middle East. But then I stopped.
I looked at his image on the screen. I cocked my head to one side, and I breathed, and I watched him.
I chuckled a little, thinking how wonderful it was that he was there, providing detailed instructions, and I was here, rolling my eyes as if I had never taken care of a household on my own. It was just like he was here, sitting in the study with me on a Sunday afternoon. He was advising me. He was fixing things. And I got choked up over the mortgage and the hot tub. When he finished there was a little silence and I just said,
“I sure do miss you.”
And he looked back into the camera and smiled, and said, “I miss you, too.” And through that blurry pixellated image, Skype delivered a nano-second of something that no letter, no email ever could decipher or communicate. There was a recognition between two spouses. I don’t know what it was, really. It might have been a look, or a pause, or a gulp, or just a moment. But there was recognition that this really is hard, and it’s going to be hard for a while longer, but in the end, it’s all going to be okay.
There’s going to be a beer break that I probably won’t take. There’s going to be a wall. There are going to be uphill battles and a stiff-legged lap, and cheerleaders. There’s going to be a home stretch, and a finish line, and an ice bath.
And at the end, I will have accomplished something I have never done before.
If I can keep running at pace, the kinks will work themselves out. And if I pace myself, I will be able to make it up the hill (without a wheel chair). I have to remember to enjoy the t-shirts and the funny signs and the well-timed music and the jumping cheerleaders along the way. I have to depend on all those other people running the race right alongside me. I have to remember there are full-length marathoners out there doing twice as much. And I have to look forward to the finish line, not the potty line. Oh, and let’s not forget the Brazilian steakhouse dinner. With bacon.
And I do. I really, really do.
Because I have to. Because I can. Because I choose to.