He slows down his pace so I can catch him.
I’m breathing hard.
My legs feel like dead weight. Every step is sheer determination.
He gets ahead of me and circles back so that we are in step again. Together.
Terrell’s watching me out of the corner of his eye. He motions for me to keep going. He hands me water. He wills me to take another step. I am tethered to him and I can feel my husband mentally pulling me towards the finish.
I used to say I hated running while I sat on the couch with a sweet tea in my hand. Now, I say it while I’m running. I was not made for this. It doesn’t come easy. It’s hard.
“Just a little further. You can do it,” he said loudly over his music.
“You’re not my coach,” I snapped at him. Oh hey, so I’m also sort of angry when my legs are on fire. I smiled and made a mental note to thank him for cheering me on later (you know, when I could talk again).
We are a team. We run together. When I lag behind, he encourages me. When his body suffers, I support him. Some runs are easier than others, but most are long and hard with no end in sight.
Running reminds me of marriage.
Marriage is not a quick sprint, it’s a slow, long, sometimes painful marathon. We have been running this race together for 21 years. We’ve had very good years and very bad ones. This last one stretched us and pulled us apart in ways we didn’t expect. It’s revealed new areas of weakness that come with transition and overwhelming work. The need to find each other again has driven us closer, desperate to finish this race well.
There are moments on the road and in marriage, when I think it would be easier to just quit. As I struggle my way through the cold wind, painful shin splints, arguments over money, kids, work, I find myself asking Why am I doing this? And then I remember the commitment I’ve made. The one to God, to me, to him.
And I keep going. One step after another. We keep running this race.
A few months ago, Terrell was given an ultimatum by his doctor concerning his diabetes. He’s lost (another 20 pounds) and he signed up for a half marathon to raise money for Mercy House.
My husband is running for his life. And I’m running because I’m on his team.
And that’s what teammates do–they support each other.
Recently, Terrell wrote me a letter that outlined my life accomplishments. And yes, an empty laundry basket might have made the list. Because that actually happened one time. Some days, I don’t give him a lot to work with.
As I read his words, I couldn’t stop the tears. Because every single thing on his list that looked like my achievement, was actually ours. Every word I’ve written, every story I’ve told, every meal I’ve made, every positive parenting moment, every woman I’ve remembered in poverty, every last thing–he was in my corner, slow clapping, whispering in my ear in my most inadequate moments, You can do this, Kristen. Don’t stop. You can do this.
I am running for him. I am running for us. I am running because I love running when it’s over. Nothing makes me feel more like an overcomer than finishing what I’ve started. With every step, I can hear my heart pound: I can do this. I can do this hard day. I can do the hard work I’ve been called to.
Marriage is hard, redeeming work. I’ve discovered my ugliest, weakest moments with this guy by my side. I have whined and wallowed and wept in his arms. I have waged war against this man. He knows me at my best and still chooses to run this race with me.
And that’s worth finishing for.
P.S. The race we’ve been training for (my first) is in 10 days and he’s kicking my butt in more than just mileage!