For the Long Run

“Are you gonna’ eat that?” I asked, pointing at the last slice of pizza on the tray.

“Well, I’ve only had one slice…” Deanne answered, smiling.

I had talked non-stop through dinner and somehow still managed to eat all the pizza. She must have liked me though, since after that first date at a pizza joint in Durango, Colorado, we spent the next 15 years of our lives together.

We got married on February 4, 2009, the same day my grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Sixty years together seemed both aspirational and intimidating.

We’d initially contemplated having a large wedding, something grandiose to mark this milestone in our lives. It quickly became apparent though that weddings were costly and logistically complicated, particularly with family overseas. We chose instead to elope and got married in Portland, Oregon at the library of the Forest Park arboretum, surrounded by books and trees and a few of our closest friends.

What we couldn’t appreciate at the time was that the choice of a small and simple wedding put an intimate emphasis on our relationship.

Life as it unfolds is only superficially defined by separate grand occasions. The continuum of all the happenings in between are what make up the substance. There lies both the beauty and challenges of a relationship, and in that sense is not too dissimilar to a long run.

When I think back on my running career, my mind naturally gravitates to the highlights. The Hardrock 100, UTMB, Nolan’s 14, and many other such examples stand out as defining moments along the way. Yet, each of those singular events were preceded by months of preparation and practice without which the highlights would not have been created.

Should the value and meaning then, of running or a relationship, be placed solely on the final result, or is it the stuff between the mileposts that gives both their richness and depth?

I think the latter is true, but often overlooked because the mundane always appears less exciting, less captivating, yet without it those grand focal points would not exist.

With our 10-year anniversary approaching, we talked about different ideas to mark the occasion: throw a big party, or maybe go to New Orleans for the weekend, or something like that. As the date grew closer we both felt overwhelmed with the pressure to create something great and unique. What if our flight got delayed and we spent the weekend in the airport? February isn’t exactly the best time of year to have a big party when you live in a 700-square-foot cabin. Maybe we were just missing the point. Our relationship is not complete by a listing of bullets and highlights, rather it’s characterized by a sentiment of togetherness that has formed over time.

We decided to have an easy day and went to the Denver Art Museum to see an exhibit of animals depicted in art. We both like animals and art, so it seemed fitting.

On the way home, we stopped by one of our favorite local restaurants for pizza. After 15 years, it felt like not much had changed. I still did all the eating and (most) of the talking, but the difference was in the nuance, the deeper appreciation for the things we’ve shared together. When I really think deeply about our relationship, there isn’t one single moment that truly defines it. Rather, there’s an accumulation of all these small details that flow in continuity to make up the whole. I am left with a feeling that is hard verbalize. It’s a feeling that the complete commitment to someone or something is in the long run infinitely worthwhile.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What gives definition to your running? The interesting moments here and there or the daily practice and consistency that allow those moments to happen? Or some of both?
  • And what parallels do you see in your lifetime relationships? Are they defined by moments, the long-term process, or some of both?

Photo: Joe Grant

Joe Grant

frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.

There are 15 comments

  1. olga

    Beautiful. Happy anniversary, Joe. Relationships are precious exactly because they are simple and are made of daily non-defining moments. I remember how we met on Wildwood, near marker 4, at the top of the hill.

  2. Nick

    Beautifully written and well contemplated. In essence its the journey not the ends that makes life worth living eternally – the definition of greek tragedy.
    Running grounds you, instills humility everyday.

  3. Mike

    I guess for me it’s balance. My relationship is far more precious to me than the running. While my partner loves to go outdoors, and (sort of) loves to run on the trails, she doesn’t share my obsession for the longer distances. I’ll take this compromise any day–that we spend any time together in nature is so important to us both. And so I have to balance my love for longer distance running, including the training, learning, failing, succeeding, and the milestone accomplishments with the deeper love for my partner. As with anything in our nearly 26 year marriage we balance each other’s desires and needs to strengthen that bond that brought us together in the first place. Hitting the trails to train for some race means balancing that into all the other priorities. Honestly? I’m still trying to do a better job of all this.

    This was a beautiful piece by Joe. Sounds like a family that has their priorities in balance.

  4. Reynaldo Rios

    In running as well as with my 20 years of marriage I firmly believe it is the “process” that makes me a better person and a better husband. Races and celebrations are nice for sure, but not indispensable, the day to day grind, the small details and the desire of keep pushing is the real beauty.

Post Your Thoughts