Going it alone… or not

I logged a lot of miles last year, training for my first marathon.

I started training months and months before the day of the race. Short runs turned to long runs turned to longer runs. Mild temperatures turned to freezing temperatures turned to warmer temperatures.  Long-sleeved shirts and headbands turned to long pants and gloves and jackets turned to shorts and tank tops.

But one thing remained constant: I ran alone. With the exception of maybe two training runs over the course of those months, it was just me, by myself, with my thoughts.

I had a lot to think about during that time, so in a way, it was my therapy… to just go out the door with nothing else to do but run and think and figure things out – or at least try. In many ways, it was a time of redefining myself. Who I was, after 4 years of marriage, on my own again.

I doubt that many people get married with the belief that they’ll be divorced in just a few years. I certainly didn’t. I was young when I got married (I had just turned 24) and when we separated I had just turned 28. That weighed on my mind a lot… how I had gone from my early 20s to my late 20s, and with what to show for it? As much as I knew it was the best thing for both of us to go our separate ways, in many ways I felt like a big failure. A failure as a mom to our dogs, a failure as a wife, a failure as a daughter, a failure as a sister, a failure as an aunt. No one but me made me feel this way, of course, but these were the things I had to work through, to figure out… and I was able to as I ran and ran and ran.

I didn’t want to fail myself as a runner. My marriage vows – “in sickness and health” – those I may have failed, but I didn’t want it to be the same for my training. I pushed through or treated or contended with colds and minor setbacks with determination.

But always alone, just the way I wanted it, the way I needed it.

After running that first marathon, I was on such a high from the feeling of accomplishment that I wanted to keep training. I signed up for my first triathlon, a Half Ironman, and continued to run – and swim and bike – on my own.

Then over the summer, when I was on almost-daily Auntie duty at Audrey’s pool club, I became friendly with another woman who did a lot of running. She was always telling me about this 5-mile race that she ran every Thursday night… it was low-key, fun, and a great group of people showed up for it every week.

And every week I resisted going because, well, I didn’t run with people. I ran by myself, that’s how I liked it, how I needed it.

But one Thursday in early August, I finally relented. I saw her at the pool club again, she told me I really should come that night… and only because I had to run 5 miles that day as part of my training for my next marathon, I went.

And I’m glad I did because that’s the day I met Brian.

We were introduced by my friend before the race. I remember Brian asked me where I was from and I told him, but added that I was moving to New York shortly (to which – so he says – he said to himself, “Do you think that’s going to stop me?”).

Around the first mile, I remember seeing Brian, like, randomly directing traffic, which probably made me pause for a quick second in confusion, but he later told me that since there’s no police presence at these weekly races, and there were a lot of people running that night, he was just wanted to help the traffic flow.

In any case, at some point around mile 3, I heard someone come up next to me and say, “Howdy.” I turned to my right and it was Brian.

It had been a long time since I’d run a shorter distance race, so I had been concentrating on keeping track of my breathing and my pace. I thought he was just saying hello as he ran by me, but he slowed down a bit and started asking me about myself. What did I do for a living? Why was I moving to New York? Where did I usually run? Unaccustomed to talking and running at the same time, and going at a pretty decent speed, I started to feel fatigued. “You can go ahead of me. I know I’m holding you back,” I said. But he stayed and talked, keeping me at a good pace, telling me when the 4-mile mark was coming up, and that after that it was a straight, flat road to the finish.

I remember thinking that it had been a long time since I had felt that kind of encouragement… probably not since I had run cross country in high school. He pushed me that night, and I appreciated it.

Over the next few weeks we saw each other in group settings. Between planning my move and other commitments, I made it to a few other group runs and workouts (running with people! willingly!)… until one Saturday when Brian and I had our first run together, just the two of us.

I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October and had planned on doing 17 miles alone (naturally) but Brian offered to come to my side of the state for an early morning run. And he offered cook for me afterward. Sold!

And because a.) Gmail does a stellar job at archiving chats, b.) I don’t regularly go on deleting frenzies, and c.) I’m sentimental, I still have the formal written offer, courtesy of Gchat:

Brian: i was thinking, you’re being so kind to let me run your 17 miler, the least i can do is make some breakfast for you

Before the run, I wondered if I would have enough to talk about for over 2 hours with someone I had just recently met. During the run, I was quite certain Brian regretted ever asking to join me. Because I bascially took the contents of my brain and emptied them onto him over the course of those 17 miles. Everything I had been working through on my own throughtout the months and months of my solo runs landed right in his lap. To Brian’s credit, if he was thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into with this girl?” he didn’t let on. In fact, he just listened to me – really listened – and gave his input and insight at just the right moments.

After the run, he went to his truck and instead of driving away (which I totally wouldn’t have blamed him for), he came back with English muffins, eggs, fresh veggies, granola and yogurt. He told me to go sit outside on my parents’ back deck and he basically took over their kitchen, whipping up a veritable feast for the two of us (which, after burning all those calories, we earned, dammit).

Then he asked me if I wanted to go running again the next Saturday.

And that is how Brian won my closed up, slightly wounded, very apprehensive heart… just by being his honorable, caring, sensitive, kind, loving, sweet, honest and wonderful self.

It is also how I realized that I didn’t, actually, just want to run by myself.

Because I guess, in the end, it wasn’t so much that I needed to run alone…. it was that I needed the right person to run with.

About Audrey

Audrey McClelland has been a digital influencer since 2005. She’s a mom of 5 and shares tips on her three favorite things: parenting, fashion and beauty. She’s also a Contemporary Romance Author.

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  1. 2.1.10
    Meg said:

    Jane – What a great post! I am so glad that you have found your happy … You SO deserve it!!! xoxo

  2. 2.1.10

    Wow Jane…I have missed your writings…I am so excited Brian was there just when you needed it. I’ve been keeping tabs on you from afar…just cause things get in the way, but you are always in my mind since those crazy Throwback Thursdays! He sounds like a wonderful man!

  3. 2.1.10
    anon said:

    I love that. thanks for sharing. I am married and have never felt so alone and wish I could experience that in any small way. all the best –

  4. 2.1.10
    Griffith Girls Mom said:

    What a wonderful post, friend. It warmed my heart and put a smile on my face, at a time when I find myself at a relationship crossroads too. You are an inspiration and a true guiding light. 🙂

  5. 2.1.10

    Awww… sniff. I’m so happy for you. This was a beautiful post.

  6. 2.1.10
    Keith said:

    Very nice Janie.

  7. 2.1.10
    Heather said:

    What a guy! What a love story! I’m so, so happy for you, Jane. Your happiness is so apparent and your love story so beautiful.

  8. 2.1.10

    What an amazing story Jane… it was all meant to be and such a beautiful love story! I’m so happy for you. (((HUGS)))

  9. 2.2.10
    Joyce Leven said:

    Jane, I am so happy for you. Not only did you “find” Brian, you seemed to have “found” yourself along the way. Enjoy the journey.

  10. 2.2.10

    You have me crying with joyful hope for you… and for anyone who feels alone when truly none of us is ever, ever alone. There are lights everywhere, and yours found you. You know from the very beginning that I loved Brian’s “eyes and wild, wild hair.” Brian makes you feel whole. He looks into your soul. He is your Watering Can. And you are his Watering Can. It is simply, now, a race of blessings and love! I love you, Janie!

  11. 2.2.10
    Sarah said:

    Janeyjane, this is just so wonderful. I’m so happy for you – and so happy for Brian too! What a gift that you can describe your start together so beautifully.

  12. 2.2.10
    Audrey - Mom Generations said:

    Jane – This was beautiful!

  13. 2.2.10
    Dad said:

    You have a gift for putting what you feel into words. You two seem to have the type of relationship that you don’t have to work at.
    Isn’t that a great feeling!
    I love you sweetheart.

  14. 2.2.10

    YOU are NOT allowed to make me bawl like this. I read this, following along with I can only imagine was just a sliver of the emotion you were feeling. I love this story. I love you. Heck, I love Brian and I don’t even know the guy but he makes you happy, and clearly genuinely at peace…and your love story just stole my heart.

  15. 2.3.10
    Jillian said:

    What a great post! It is truly a love story

  16. 2.10.10
    C said:

    Awwwww! What a wonderful post, Jane!!! Great guy you’ve got there! Oh, and the two of you look absolutely amazing together!!! XO

  17. 2.12.10
    Dawn said:

    I love hearing the whole story – thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  18. 2.16.10
    Eve said:

    Hey Jane, I’m glad you posted the link on your facebook. It’s been awhile since I’ve read your blog. So many changes in your life, what can I say here on the other side of the U.S. you are a girl with moxy! Love to have found you again.

  19. 2.19.10
    Rachael said:

    Jane – you are an amazing writer – this was so beautifully written! I’m so glad you’ve found someone so wonderful. I hope when you’re back i n RI, we’ll have the chance to meet up!

  20. 2.23.10
    Hillary said:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your most recent posts. I know it’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen each other, but you’re truly an inspiration to me. I’m in a situation similar to the one you experienced last year, and plan on separating from my husband of 3 years within the next few months. It’s been a daunting process, but I know for sure that I am destined to do bigger and better things with my life (one of those things include moving to NYC, ironically).
    I also agree with your father’s post with regard to having a relationship that you don’t have to work at. While I have yet to find that type of relationship, I know it’s (he’s) out there blissfully waiting for me to grasp it (him) with open arms.

    Love your writing. Keep it up.

    Take it easy,

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