It surprised me when Andy said he was going to run the New York City Marathon. He lives for snowboarding. That sport is his raison d’etre. But Andy’s naturally fit with an athletic build, so aside from some pre-season “get-in-shape” exercise, he’s never committed to another sport. Basketball with friends, yes. Climbing on a Saturday afternoon, why not? But the interest in running came seemingly out of nowhere.
We had trained for and run the Scranton Marathon a few years back – more just for fun and to tick “run a marathon” off life’s bucket list. But after the marathon, his running shoes stayed in the hall closet. So when he started running a few times a week, I was surprised. When he announced he was going to run the New York City Marathon, I was even more surprised. Guaranteed entry meant he’d have to run nine races in a year through New York Road Runners and do one volunteering session for the organization. For a guy with very little spare time, this seemed liked a big commitment. I’ll admit that I was skeptical. But he did it.
Once his place was guaranteed, he set a training schedule and the goal to run the race in under four hours. As our life got more and more hectic (baby on the way, summer vacation, apartment renovations, new job) I was sure he’d postpone his entry to the following year. Despite the oscillation in our life, though, Andy kept running. Two short runs during the week and one long run at the weekend.
I’ll admit that I couldn’t wait for the marathon to be over. The training schedule was affecting our life in a big way. Two evenings a week our dinner and relaxation were delayed until he got home from work, changed, went running, and showered. Then on Saturday or Sunday, our plans would revolve around his ‘long run’ which took hours. We bickered about it a few times, but as the weeks wore on, I saw his commitment and focus and I wanted to be more supportive.
The marathon was this past Sunday, November 2. It was all we could talk about in the day or two preceding. We constantly checked the weather report (predicted to be bitter cold with a wind advisory), and discussed what he’d wear to keep warm. We debated what he wanted to eat beforehand, what he’d eat the morning of, where we’d meet after, where his friends and I should come see him on the route, what he needed me to bring for him post-race, and on and on. I could see he was getting anxious and there was little I could do help. Beyond listening, talking, and offering words of encouragement and support…I felt a little helpless.
So, I did what most cooks do when they don’t know what else to do. I asked him what he wanted to eat and I made it for him.
For his pre-marathon dinner he requested papardelle with my homemade tomato sauce topped with a pile of grated parmigianino and a salad. For the ‘morning of’ breakfast, I made him a frittata with bacon, spinach, and sharp cheddar and cut it into quarters so that he could take it with him on the bus out to Staten Island.
I prepared more snacks for the journey: a high carb smoothie along with bananas, an English muffin bagel slathered in almond butter. It felt good – comforting, empowering – that even though I couldn’t run alongside him, I could help fuel him. It also took my mind off the high wind worries and frigid temperature predictions.
The morning arrived and I dropped Andy at Bryant Park where he caught the bus out to Staten Island. I wished him well and told him I’d see him (where I’d be cheering with his friends) at mile 12. With the help of the NYC Marathon App, I could track his progress from my phone which updated us every time he completed 5K. When he crossed the finish line, I felt the greatest sense of relief. And pride! When we finally found each other, he fell into my arms and we embraced. His friends gathered around to congratulate him and tell him how crazy he was.
After a shower at a nearby gym, a glass of red wine, and a bowl of soup, Andy was ready to go home. I thought he’d want a big meal, but his appetite was small. He just wanted a bowl of my homemade tomato soup and some salad. I agreed to make that meal so long as he’d eat a grilled cheese, too.
The next day he ate for England. Bagel and eggs for breakfast. Steak, twice-baked potatoes, and asparagus for lunch. And come evening it gave me incredible pleasure to make the one thing he wanted most: a roast dinner. Roasted pork loin with homemade applesauce, roasted potatoes, parsnips, and carrots with peas and gravy. As we sat down to dinner last night, I think I felt nearly as much relief as Andy did. I realized that I had been holding a lot of anxiety, too.
Over the past few days, I couldn’t take away his nerves, I couldn’t run the race for him, and I couldn’t change the weather. The only thing I could do was nourish him before, during, and after. And that’s exactly what I did.