Every spring, Notre Dame holds a half-marathon called (surprise, surprise) “The Holy Half.”
No, I’m not running it. My dislike for running “just to run” borders on moral outrage. My soccer days are long behind me, but conditioning week still haunts me, and while I run the occasional 5K, I’m only lured in by Color-Run-style events. All in all, I take Ann Perkins’s attitude from Parks and Recreation that “I know it’s good for you, but, God, at what cost?”
Charis, on the other hand, does run. Not only does she run, but she trains. And she sticks to that regimen. So for the last few months, she’s been preparing to take on The Holy Half. She rocked it on the run yesterday; weeks and months and miles and miles have paid off.
I admire runners, what, with their early wake-up times to fit a quick route into their day, their commitment to the right gear, their ability to reach that mysterious level of enlightened transcendence called a runner’s high.
But I’ve never been a firsthand witness to the long-distance prep that goes into a half or whole marathon. Well-deserved kudos to those who make this thing a course of habit. For our schedules, Charis and I drop off the kids at their separate schools, which means that on Tuesdays and Thursdays she takes advantage of her free time and runs. It’s not Netflix time, coffee dates, or impromptu napping. It’s running. She supplements these mid-week runs with progressively longer runs on Saturdays and the occasional Sunday. No vegging out here.
It started out simply enough.
Two-mile runs for the first week or two, with a bonus three-mile run on Saturdays.
Then the two-miles turned to three-, four-, five-miles. Soon enough, a “normal” run was a 10K. The big runs topped off at eight and ten miles. The runs are grueling enough, but the time it takes to carve them out of a hectic routine is what starts to take a toll. A central component of my cheering her on is simply to make room in our routine: Charis is appreciative, but all I’m really doing is staying in my pajamas a little longer on weekend mornings and keeping the boys in check with numerous Mario Party 3 marathons of our own. Meanwhile, she’s out running, through balmy winter days and rainstorms.
This past week was “taper” week, where the training regimen recognizes the madness that the half-marathon is and what it will do to the body. Thus, a rare moment of mercy: Charis need only run four miles on Tuesday and two on Thursday.
The big day arrives, and Charis has not slept well the night before. Whining dogs, wakeful kids, my usual restlessness, and adrenaline-fueled anticipation are the culprits here. But we all wake up in the morning, she and I chugging our coffee while preparing both scrambled and hardboiled eggs. I try to pump her up with the Rocky theme, but I’m not sure how welcome it was. But, still, it’s the Rocky theme, so now it’s stuck in my head and I mimic the sound of peppy brass despite my froggy morning voice.
And then she’s off. We agreed it would be best for me to stick around with the boys at home rather than for my minions and me to attempt to track her progress, meet her on the sidelines of checkpoints, wait at the finish line. I’m sure the boys are thankful. But I cheer her on from the couch, trying to imagine her state of mind and body, knowing that she’s going to show that marathon who is boss.
All this might not sound like much of a true cheerleading activity at all, really. Really, it isn’t. But, wow, am I proud of her.
And if you wonder how we celebrate her achievement: early bedtime for the boys and a Chinese-takeout-and-Netflix decompression. What a thrilling life (that’s sarcastic). What an impressive woman (that’s for sure).
Jacob Schepers (Calvin ’12) is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (2014), a winner of the 2013 Outriders Poetry Project competition. His poetry has appeared in Verse, The Common, PANK, The Destroyer, and others. He lives in South Bend, IN, with his wife, Charis, and two sons, Liam and Oliver. He is both an MFA student and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame.