Given that today is Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but reflect upon the current state of my relationship. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t been my usual energetic self this past month, that my smiles and encouraging words on these pages have been masking some issues. I’ve been hoping that everything would eventually smooth itself out, that maybe we just needed some time apart, but things have only grown worse. And so I can’t help but ask myself, where is the love? Where’s the joy I used to feel when we were together? I seem to have misplaced it, sucked it away with routine, too many demands and stubborn, selfish behavior.

Running and I, we have a long and complicated history, dating back to when I was just a teenager. After years apart, a brief, passionate encounter in my adult life and yet another setback, we finally reunited for good in 2009, full of hope and promise. I thought things would be different this time, and they were – I mean, they are – but we’re in a rut, and I’m desperate to rekindle what we had, merely months ago.

We were blissfully happy during our first year together. Everything was fresh and exciting, as things often are in a new relationship. We were adventurous, slightly afraid initially but with each successful step the fear subsided and we began to explore new things and take on different challenges. He soothed me, energized me, supported me, gave me confidence in myself and helped me become a stronger person, both mentally and physically. Being together left me buzzed for hours.

Sure we had our ups and downs like everyone else, and as we worked through them, the love that we shared became deeper and more complex. We started to demand more of each other, in a good way; the more I put into the relationship, the more Running gave back. We were a team, and after each victory we felt unstoppable, having achieved more than we had imagined possible. We kept pushing through these tough moments because the rewards were so fulfilling, inspiring ambitious plans for what was surely to be a long and successful future together.

2010 was an eventful and exhausting but incredible year for us. I put him through a lot, but only because I thought we were ready for the next level – and we were, of course we were, otherwise we would not have achieved so much! I remember how we felt on the day of the NYC marathon – nothing could beat that feeling of accomplishment. My love for Running was stronger than ever – all that hard work, it had been worth it!

We took a short break after that – because it’s healthy to give each other space – followed by a happy reunion later in November. With the pressure lifted, we simply enjoyed being together and slowly built up to where we had left off. I remember the snow storm in early December, when we went from Putney to Richmond in what can only be described as a winter wonderland. Oh how we loved each other that Sunday! Or a crisp sunny day around Christmas – invigorating is the only way I can describe our time together that morning. But then after New Year’s Eve, we got back to work towards another lofty goal and unlike previous times, something just wasn’t feeling right. Things weren’t always bad, I still cared about him, but I felt something missing and, as a result, Running wasn’t the same either.

This all came to a head last week, which is why I can’t hold it in any longer. When I got sick after Zanzibar, Running kept a distance for an entire week, leaving me desperate and anxious. I forced him back to me last Monday, perhaps against my better judgment, and we proceeded to share a tumultuous week together. Friday was our day apart; I went to see Sports Massage, who had helped repair my relationship with Running many times in the past when times were tough. She healed me, temporarily at least, and gave me some friendly advice, but I still felt despondent later that evening as I sat on my couch, ate junk food and watched “Eat Pray Love.”

The next day, I woke up and decided enough was enough – we’ve had a tough month, fine, but we have to get over it. I got dressed, called up Running, and told him that I was determined to fix whatever was broken. He told me to meet him in Richmond Park. I wanted to protest, “That’s so far away, and none of my friends are available to keep me company. Can’t we meet somewhere more central?” Instead, however, I simply replied, “Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I knew Richmond was where we needed to be – just us.

It took me forever to get there, but I finally arrived and saw him waiting for me at the gates. We hadn’t been to the park for months – the sun was shining, and it felt good to see him there. “I know we’ve grown apart since NYC,” I told him, “but I still love you. I’m just stressed out right now, which I know I’ve taken out on you too much, I’m sorry. Maybe it’s all the pressure I’ve been putting on us lately, which I only do because I believe we can achieve great things, but as a result I don’t always feel very connected to you. I’m scared – our next event is so close and our goal so intimidating. Tell me what to do so we can get out of this rut. I’m committed to getting back on track and just want to enjoy our afternoon together – it’s been too long.”

Running looked back at me with an eyebrow raised. “Well, it’s about time! You just thought that if you simply went through the motions that I’d still love you unconditionally and continue to help you grow? I don’t think so. You can’t take me for granted. I’m not going to be around for the rest of your life – one day, I promise you, I will disappear, and believe me, you’ll miss me. I may have many lovers, but I don’t choose everyone – cherish and respect the fact that I chose you. ”

“I know, I know. I’ve been stupid. You are a blessing and I’ve been unappreciative! But now I’m ready to listen.”

“I don’t even know where to start,” said Running, shaking his head. “Okay – first, since we’re on the topic of listening, you have to do a lot more of that! Of course I’m here to support you, to help alleviate your stress and frustration, but this isn’t a one-sided relationship! Stop drowning me out, listen to ME! I know Music inspires you at times, and Garmin gives you all those fancy numbers, but I’m the only one who is honest with you. I tell you when something is wrong. That used to be enough for you! I used to be the one who told you your pace – you would just feel it – and I always admitted when I didn’t know. Garmin never does that, and he certainly isn’t trustworthy. He’s always wandering off, searching for his satellites or whatever. And I should remind you, you didn’t even meet Garmin until after our first half marathon, our fastest race!”

“I know, you’re right. Garmin will tag along for the ride, but I promise, I’ll ignore him today. It’s just us.”

“Second – I’m bored. We used to be spontaneous, explore new places together, but lately, it’s just the same old tired routes. You keep asking me to take you to work and the gym and back home, which I understand saves you time but you’re doing it too frequently. And I’m tired of the treadmill! Let’s go to new places, please!”

“But I just took you to Zanzibar!” I pleaded.

“I know, and that was fun – well, kind of – but still. One trip once in awhile isn’t going to cut it. Stop being lazy – take me to the park more often. Or if the weather is nice, get your butt on a train and take me to the trails. You don’t need to bring a friend – you know that we have fun just the two of us.” I nodded in agreement.

“Also,” he continued, “you need to take better care of yourself. How do you expect us to move forward otherwise? You can’t expect me to do all the work – I depend on YOU! So stop eating junk and get some sleep for God’s sake. For weeks, you’ve been sleep deprived – I’m tired of your grumpy moods, and even worse, when you stand me up. It’s unacceptable! Of course we need time apart – it’s essential – but too much time apart isn’t good either.”

“I promise – I’ll make more of an effort to be healthy.”

He looked at me skeptically, because I have made that promise many times before – he knows my weaknesses, after all. “Alright then – let’s go.” I followed him into the park with a renewed sense of optimism and started to feel somewhat refreshed, giddy almost, for the first time in awhile. I wanted him there with me – I wasn’t looking forward to saying goodbye, as I occasionally do, but was just enjoying our time together.

Towards the end of our two hours in Richmond, however, I started to feel some familiar struggles – the disinterest, the desire to be elsewhere. He felt me pull away and said, “Look, I know you’re feeling a bit burnt out from last year and perhaps it will take time for us to repair the damage – maybe we need to re-evaluate our goal for next month, there’s nothing wrong with that! As long as you make an effort to put what we discussed earlier into motion, then I’ll stand right beside you. I’ll carry you through this last push and help inspire you so we can work as a team once again. But if you can’t recover the joy, if you’re dragging yourself out to meet me and purely chasing that time, you know that race day will be a struggle for us both. Without a desire to run, without a love for me, we won’t make it to the finish line, at least not in the way we had imagined.”

I went home and let our talk really sink in. I knew he was right, and although I didn’t think that things would change overnight, I knew that I couldn’t live without him. I spent Sunday alone, but called him up this morning – it is Valentine’s Day, after all. The sun was shining and to show him I was making an effort, I left Music, Garmin, and all other distractions behind – just us, today. We set off at a comfortable pace and I made sure to listen to everything he told me – “something is aching here…slow down please…” We enjoyed 45 very peaceful minutes together before going our separate ways. I left him with a smile – a real one.

Honestly, I’m not sure how we will fare in next month’s half marathon, given the lack of quality time we have spent together recently. Sub-1:37 is an ambitious goal, but I know we will give it our all – surely we can at least get close. And if we fail, well, we’ll just keep trying, because I’m in it for the long haul.

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