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Monday, April 12, 2010

The old ball and chain

As the number of days until the marathon dwindles, I am finding my level of anxiety increasing just a little bit. The cut back on training as a race gets closer is always hard, but this year I have found it to be a little worse than normal. I don't remember feeling this way last year, but I was not trying to let an injury heal and had other things of higher priority as my focus at the time. As I've said before, running is a good activity for me because it keeps me busy, gets me moving, and occupies my mind. In the absence of this obsession, I have been restless and without much focus, and therefore, a total bother to my husband and kids!

My husband, Andrew, really isn't the old ball and chain as I named this post. He's actually quite the opposite, and a big part of the reason why I am able to run as much as I like to. He is deserving of a great deal of gratitude for making this commitment so easy for me. Having a spouse (or girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, ball and chain, etc.) training for a marathon is not easy. It's a big time commitment, especially on the weekends, and it can be a physically and emotionally draining time for both the runner and their family. I am lucky to have a husband who is not phased by this, and does what he can to be supportive. Andrew understands why I run, and how it makes me feel (which is usually much calmer and at ease). He understands how I feel when I haven't run, too (which can be edgy and impatient at best). Last week, he kindly nudged me to go "do something that will make you feel like you had gone running" so I would find a happy place again. He's been known to kick me out the door to go for a run because, more often than not, I am a happier person when I get home. He also recognizes this fine line that exists between feeling great and feeling like junk after a long run, and on those "junk" days, he so graciously suggests I take a nap. I imagine the alternative to me sleeping is for me to be cranky and annoying, so why not let me rest, right? And he knows why running for Dana-Farber is important to me. He just gets it.

The thing is that he has always "gotten it." Not just about running, but about life and family and providing support. Never has this been more evident than in the past two years. The craziness that comes with any long-term illness, like cancer, can really bring to light the core of who someone is inside. My brother, John, lived with our family off and on for five years, including the final year of his life. He came to live with us originally for about a year so he could begin receiving treatment in Boston, and over the next few years, while his health was good, he lived on his own. In 2008, John came back to live with us after the tumor had recurred so he could again begin treatment. Throughout these stays, Andrew's support was unwavering, not just of me but of John. He welcomed him in our home whenever he needed or wanted to be here. He just felt like that is what you do to help family. He believes that our extended families are one and the same. Not his family and my family, but our family. And he's always been willing to take with that whatever was coming down the road, and for a while, there hasn't been a whole lot of happy rolling down the street. When John's health started to worsen, my parents and sisters and aunts were here for weeks at a time. Andrew was happy to have them around. John's friends made trips to visit him and there were people coming and going at all times. Andrew was happy to see their faces. When visiting nurses or hospice people were here, he was always happy to help. He never complained, or at least only in jest to bring some laughs to the crazy aunties. He always shared a laugh or a joke when the mood called for it, and sometimes when the mood didn't but that is what you get with Andrew! He always tries to make better a difficult situation. He does this not because he has to, but because he wants to. Because that is just what you do.

I met Andrew in college, and frighteningly enough, have now known him half of my life. Way back when at the time we met, I could not have imagined that his easy-going, humor-filled, lighthearted, generous manner would be so important during a tumultuous few years. He balances my seriousness with laughter. He tries to make things fun even when it is hard to see that opportunity is there. He brings light in when I am sometimes inclined to block it out. He just does what it takes, whatever that might be.

We are coming off a media circus with Tiger Wood's ridiculously named "historic comeback" at the Master's. I was so happy to see Mickelson come out with the win. He played a great round of golf yesterday when it mattered, but that isn't necessarily the story. He, too, has had a personally trying year that wasn't the result of some really poor and selfish choices, and Mickelson deserved a lot of the attention that was, in my opinion, misdirected elsewhere. Rick Reilly of ESPN wrote a great story about Mickelson and his family, and what they've gone through. Take a minute if you read it. Rick Reilly: A Win Beyond Golf. He tells of his support for his wife and his mother and his children. And a little bit about winning his third green jacket. He writes that it was a win for women, which may be true, but it is also a win for the guys who work hard at just being decent guys every day.

I am happy to say one of those guys is my husband, who may be horrified that I wrote this, but he is deserving of some thanks. I'm sure he'll learn to live with the resulting fame! So, thank you, Andrew. I know I can't say it enough.

Be good. Be strong.


  1. Yeah, he's a hard guy not to love!
    You'll be in my thoughts Monday. I know you'll have a great run!
    Miss y'all. Love - Michelle