Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12a
My fiancé, Phil, and I have been engaged since May 29th. Shortly after our engagement, we started training for a marathon. We both love being outdoors, swimming, hiking, and skiing, but neither of us would really consider ourselves runners. As we started training, things were pretty rough. We went from running 2-ish miles once a week to running at least 3 miles 4 times a week.
The first thing we did to prepare was get new running shoes, running clothes and learning what we needed to eat before and after our runs. One thing we still haven’t nailed down is getting out the door on time. Neither of us are morning people which meant in the middle of July, we would leave for our runs at the hottest part of the day!
Since we started training together, I have learned a lot about Phil, marriage, and myself. Now just to be clear, I don’t profess to know anything about marriage from experience; I only have theories of what it might look like. I’ve never been married, and I don’t know realistically how tough it will be. But I have run a marathon, and I do know how tough that is. Through 18 weeks of training together, Phil and I found a rhythm with each other and in our runs. The rhythm has had highs and lows. There have been days Phil has seriously not wanted to tie up his running shoes and hit the trails, but I strongly encouraged him to get his butt moving which usually led to a grumpy first 5 minutes of running.
On the other hand, there have been multiple occasions where I have struggled to finish our runs. There was a 13-mile run we did where I never found my groove running. The first couple of miles, Phil knew I was struggling and began praying for me. Shortly after he prayed for me, God answered his prayer by using Phil to distract me for the next 6 miles. Phil’s not usually much of a talker, especially while running, but for 6 miles straight, Phil talked. He talked to me about God, his relationship with God, our upcoming marriage, our relationship, a flood of things that girls, or at least this girl, loves to talk about. For 6 miles, I forgot that my legs felt like cinder blocks, and we just ran together with God as our focus.
Now the return from Christiansburg was a different story because we ran out of things to talk about. Around mile 11.5, I hit another wall and I did not want to finish. I actually kind of threw a fit and asked Phil to go get the car and pick me up! But as soon as Phil raced off to get the car, I followed him. He pulled me, metaphorically, all the way home.
One thing God has really revealed to me through training together is the give and take of leadership between a united couple. There is this one hill by Phil’s house that we begin all of our runs on. Right out of the gate, we head down the hill and right by the Blacksburg airport (Phil’s favorite section), which means to end our runs, we head right up that hill. It’s always a challenge finishing our runs that way, but the thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes Phil leads us home and sometimes I do. Phil pretty much always runs in front of me, but that doesn’t always mean that Phil is leading.
It’s a delicate lesson to learn for a female in our day and age with so many mixed messages of powerful women and making up for all of our lost years of being a man’s lesser. But I have learned that there is incredible power and grace in leading from behind. IF I push the pace too hard, Phil gets aggravated because I’m practically stepping on his heels trying to get him to run faster, but if I push the pace giving Phil room to speed up too, then we run as if we are tethered together by some invisible rope.
One time as I was struggling up the hill by the airport, Phil pretended to cut the invisible rope between us, and I cried out, “Noooo! I need to stay connected to you or I won’t make it up this hill!” He grabbed the invisible rope and tied it back around his waist, saying, “Just try and pick up the pace a little because you’re pulling me backwards.” At that moment, I had a burst of energy, knowing that I was connected to Phil by that rope and that when I slid backwards, he was pulled back with me. I mustered up what was left of my strength, and created some slack in the rope.
There have been many lessons to learn as Phil and I have prepared to run our first marathon together. Not only has the discipline of training brought us closer together as a couple, but it has also prepared us for our new lives together as one. I’m super excited to marry this guy, oh and run 26.2 miles with him too!
~ Adriana Maniere