Over the summer my husband decided he wanted to run a half marathon. It was something on his bucket list and he wanted to accomplish it during his 30th year…before he turned 31. Lucky for him, Disney World was holding a half marathon on his birthday that year. We decided we would make a trip out of it. We could celebrate his birthday, he could run the half marathon, and we could get some fun time in at Disney World. At first he assumed I would just want to be his cheerleader on the sidelines during the race, but after a little bit of thought I decided I wanted to run too. I mean, why not? Now, neither one of us were runners. Neither of us had ever run any kind of race before, let alone a half marathon; we just thought it would be cool and fun and something we could train for together. So we signed up, found a training program, booked a hotel room, and that was that.
This grand plan was made during the summer. Before the affair, before my breakdown, before life changed. I had started training in August and then stopped completely when my only desire became saving my marriage. During my time at home in Tennessee my husband had suggested we cancel the trip. I mean, fidelity and love were out of the question so it’s not like he was too keen on vacationing with me either…but here’s the kicker: my parents were coming with us. Yep. They had bought their plane tickets, booked their hotel room, and were excited to watch their daughter and son-in-law tackle this race. They were still going. My coward of a husband wanted to cancel because he didn’t want to face my parents…and suddenly my strength began to return. I was going to run. Whether he was there or not. I was going to run. I had said I would do it, my parents were sacrificing to be there with me, and I was going to run. Nothing he could say would make me quit. I was going to run, with or without him.
Upon my return to New York, running became my new obsession. I was finally working towards something I could control. I would force myself out of bed in the morning, work all day, and then run at the gym until my legs couldn’t move. While I ran I would daydream about how happy my marriage would be if I could just keep moving. I would strategize my behavior in our next therapy session. I felt stronger. I felt motivated. More weight started to fall off, which made me feel more attractive. Certainly my husband was noticing that I was thinner. And thinner means more beautiful, right?
When I was running, I wasn’t home. And home was turning into a bad place. Every night was a surprise. On the good nights, my husband would get home at a reasonable hour and I would cook dinner and clean up and we would watch his favorite television programs and I would try so hard to show him what a wonderful wife I was turning into. When I look back I’m disgusted at the lengths I went to to prove myself to him. Then, there were the nights when he would come home late and drunk and angry. The sound of his key in the door thrilled me because it meant he was safe. I would lay awake in our bed, praying that he would come home to me. I would have leftovers ready to warm up for him in case he was hungry. When he came in I would be quiet. I wouldn’t ask questions. I would just be thankful. And then there were the nights he didn’t come home at all. Those were the worst. I couldn’t sleep. I was terrified something had happened to him. My heart hurt terribly. I could actually feel it writhing with pain. I would go into every corner of our tiny apartment and beg Satan to leave our marriage. I would cry and shout, on my knees, demanding that he leave us alone. I remember screaming, “My God is bigger than you. You have picked the wrong wife to mess with. You will not win this war. You have no idea the strength my God has given me.”
And so I ran. I ran because I could. I ran to escape. I ran to feel strong. I ran to give my life purpose. The worse things got, the more I ran. I just kept running.
Isaiah 33:2 “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.”