Right after we got married, Holly decided to run a half marathon. I’m not sure how it happened, but soon enough I was following her for three miles every Saturday. Mostly on foot, a few times by car. In my life I’ve frequently topped out at five kilometers but each week I found myself agreeing to a different deal and a longer mileage. Though I remained adamant that I would never run a half marathon, after my first five miler I decided that if a Greek soldier with no prior training could do 26, I could do 13.
(Tradition tells us that the Greek soldier – running with news from the battle of Marathon back to Athens – died immediately. However, health care has come a long way since then.)
I waited until Valentine’s Day to tell Holly. By then we were running eight miles every Saturday. When I came out with it, she said, “What a perfect picture of marriage – we’ll run the race together, no matter how hard it is.”
And I said, “Oh – I just thought…exactly the same thing.”
We ran last Saturday in the Bentonville Half Marathon, which followed scenic interstates and pierced through one impressively large subdivision. The race finished with the trail that runs past Crystal Bridges, the American Art Museum funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Holly and I went there a few weeks ago. Instead of saying, “That’s the famous Van Gogh!” we said, “That was a color photo in my ninth grade history book!”
The Crystal Bridges trail is a nasty bit of incline. It resurrected warm memories of feebly crawling out of a snow ditch back to the ski trail. The trail is also of indeterminate length – at the 12 mile station we took water and voted to go one more mile only. Then, three hundred yards later we passed an encouraging bystander who yelled, “One more mile!” The fourth time this happened I started crying – but wait, that was eye sweat.
With a half mile left, about to crest the despicable Gallipoli slope, Holly threw up. It looked like lemon-lime Gatorade and she was quick to recover. “Come on,” she said as we ran past an enthusiastic mom yelling, “One more mile!” As the trail leveled and the cover rock started drifting towards us from the finish line band, I began to feel very self confident. Holly had been training five times a week. I was running just once a week. And yet she was the one who threw up. I interpreted this to mean I had won.
Physically I was a zombie. Afterwards I felt like I was wearing a fever like an expensive tuxedo. I did not want to take it off. Holly tells me that we ran into one of my fraternity brothers near the end. I can’t remember that.
We crossed the finish line together, exhausted, but I managed a smile because I had retained all my liquid. As someone began to unlace my shoe to get the race chip, another volunteer handed me a water. I ripped it open and took a big gulp –
And immediately peed in my pants.
Now, several days later, I concede that if anyone won, it was Holly.