If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago what my spring training and race plan looked like, I would have told you that it looked like training heavily, in preparation to return to Nashville for the St. Jude’s Country Music Marathon, this time to run the half marathon. I would have told you that this was exactly what I needed to do for me, for my running, for my season, for my support of the race series, and most of all, for the nostalgic, sentimental part of me that longed to return and celebrate the one year anniversary of my first ever full marathon, alongside friends I love and miss. I would have told you I was sure about all of this.
The problem with this response is that my answer was all about “me,” and not at all about “we.”
At various points of my life, I’ve felt like I was the most independent person I knew (and this very well might have been true). I’ve proved to myself I can do anything alone.
For years, I’ve strategically worn my independent spirit as a strength. Deep down, in a lot of ways, my tenacious efforts to be as independent as possible, have underneath the surface, always been a defense mechanism of sorts. They have always been tied to a resistance within my heart. A resistance toward being completely vulnerable with anyone—until Andrew.
Andrew has shown me that although I am totally capable of existing as a “me,” there’s something incredible about choosing to sacrifice a part of your own self-interest to exist as a “we,” when it is loud and clear that someone else was made for you. In the case of Andrew, it’s been loud and clear from day one, even when I wasn’t ready to hear it.
Last year while I ran the full marathon, Andrew tracked me every single step of my run—all five hours. He shipped me popsicles and an art piece in the form of a card as a congratulatory treat for after the race. He wasn’t even my boyfriend at that point, yet he was already believing in my every step.
Gate River Support
Two weeks ago, at the Gate River Run: U.S. 15K Championships, in nearby Jacksonville, Andrew joined me and proved his unconditional support of my running once again. Three miles into the race, I glanced at my phone and saw Oiselle had tweeted me, with the hashtag #brobird. I strengthened my stride having no idea what this tweet was in reference to, until after I finished the race and saw this.
I was pleased with my individual effort in this particular race, but what was even better and more memorable was the community support that surrounded this experience. Having Andrew on the sidelines cheering me on during this race, and connecting with fellow Oiselle birds reinforced just how much running is an individual effort, yet a team-driven sport.
Team Andrew & Sarah
In life, I’m grateful to be on team Andrew and Sarah.
It’s really easy to be selfish, especially when you’ve spent the bulk of your life, existing as a “me.” The thing is, on top of accepting me and loving me, not despite of, but for, all of my imperfections, Andrew’s willingness to wholeheartedly support me in whatever I choose to do, makes me want to turn down the volume on the “me” story, and more loudly live out the “we” story.
More than I want to run Nashville this season, I want to be less about “me” going forward, and more about “we.” And what’s best for the “we” story, is lacing up together, and pushing everything else to the side—including Nashville.
Andrew and I have a lot stirring in our life pot at the moment. Then again, I guess you could say that’s been true of our entire relationship thus far. From the moment we started dating, we’ve been hit with real, life-defining decisions. These decisions, rather quickly led to my move to St. Augustine. Along with that change, came us battling the uncertainty of my finding a place to live in a new city, on top of my emotional hardship surrounding leaving behind family and the familiar. Individually, we’ve both adjusted our ways of living to let someone else into our worlds, and with two new job setups, we’ve been slowly but somewhat surely figuring out how best to live, and how to live best, in our quests to create and share meaningful work, and do so together. Some days feel like successes, others like total missteps, urging us to take a step back and figure out what we will do differently going forward.
The one thing that has been unwavering through all of it, even in the hardest, most unsure moments, is our choice to love one another, and do this together. Now, as we prepare to make some monumental leaps in the coming weeks in an effort to streamline our life together in St. Augustine, I’m realizing, team Andrew and Sarah isn’t something that merely demands my attention, it’s something that deserves my full, uninterrupted focus. Naturally, this means choosing to set aside plans I care about, for what I care about most—the “we.” I’m ready for all that choice entails.
On the running front, where I once saw Nashville on my race calendar, I now see question marks. I thought this would seem intimidating, but instead, it’s freeing. Now, I’m back to running in a more raw form. Although it might seem like I’m giving something up, I’m simply giving myself even more of a push to run without the concrete goal of my next race in mind. I might not be training for Nashville, or even my next race, but I am still training for each day of my life. I’m training to better accept the blessings and challenges life brings our way. You see, the more I push myself while running, the harder it gets, the more humbled I become. The more humbled I am, the better I become at accepting grace, at being human, and at spreading compassion amongst fellow humans.
Every time I step out the door for a run and am not quite feeling it, Andrew is quick to remind me, “It’s just one foot in front of the other Sarah. It’s that simple.”
At the core, running is not only freeing, it’s an infinite metaphor for life. It’s a means of making sense out of life’s many steps and struggles.
Andrew and I have gone on a handful of runs together since he acquired new running kicks in the fall. However, there have been many days I’ve been more concerned with using my runs as alone time, than inviting him along. And so, part of this renewed commitment to lacing up together looks like us running together, and Andrew following my Base Training Plan. I’ll be running with him, every step of the way (or as many steps as he chooses). Andrew is no stranger to running. It’s just something he hasn’t consistently done since childhood. I joke that I’m training him so he can kick my butt as soon as he builds up a little more endurance. It’s mostly true, and I’m all for it. At 6’4″ (exactly a foot taller than me), I have to take two steps for every one of his. As long as we are stepping together, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Spoiler Alert: We currently are in the process of selecting our first 5K to run together this spring/early summer—so stay tuned!
Two separate heartfelt pieces written by women warriors Lauren Fleshman and Stephanie Bruce this week have only helped to strengthen my positive feelings toward my decisions during this present season of running and life. These pieces have also strengthened my gratitude for being part of the Oiselle team, and having these two birds at the forefront.
Wherever you are in your running or life journey, and attempting to strike a balance in what it means to be a woman, an athlete, a mother, a partner, etc., I highly recommend these two pieces written by women I admire, for more run-spirational reading.
Lauren Fleshman—“Time for a Check In: How’s the Goal Chasin’ Coming Along?”
Stephanie Bruce—“A Bump in the Road”