By: Stephanie Burnet

To fully love someone is to support their passions to the fullest extent in spite of yourself.

How to support a runner; this is actually a very complex thing for me to answer, and honestly even a year ago I could not have written these words as my truth.

My support did not come overnight. I would love to say that I was immediately on board with all this would entail, but I wasn’t. In the same way that my husband’s training has evolved and in the same way he has had to work at it, so have I. When is the last time your significant other has unintentionally thrown a curveball at you that has required you to realize exactly how selfish you can be? How graciously have you embraced this realization? How hard did you work to swallow the painful and jagged pills of jealousy, comparison, and pride?

My husband was born to be a runner. I tease him that he is part cyborg. His ability to just take off on a trail at the speed he does, with the ease that he does, is truly a gift. I have watched in amazement over the course of our 15 year relationship and 10 years of marriage how has trained through ups and downs. How he has sparked me, the “non-athlete” to believe in myself and to form a love running for myself. It is inspiring how he watches people around himself, and wants the best for them saying things like, “I just don’t think you understand how much potential you have, or I am so proud of what I see in your training!” In a world where everyone seems to be constantly competing against each other and in a world where people are angry and hurting, my husband uses his love and passion for running to make himself and everyone around better.

But wait…. What about me???

Hey, I don’t have an obvious physical talent that everyone praises me for. Hey, how many people know and surround my husband without having any idea that I even exist?

Can’t I be noticed and what do I even have about me that is worthy of being noticed? Am I a part of your life when I can’t even begin to keep up with your ability? How can I be important to you when there is a whole world around you that I can’t participate in and I’m not even sure I want to? If I’m not a star runner with a badass Instagram account, do you still love me? Do I matter as much to you? Am I as important as the people who share this passion with you? Do you see me as I am back with our kids as you train and deal with the unsavory parts of our life so you can keep pursuing this? Do you have any clue how hard this is at times? Do you even appreciate it? When you cross that finish line and everyone is high fiving you do you remember how many hours I put in as well? Do you remember all the proverbial fires I’ve had to put out while you were on the course? Do you remember ME?

The simple and most profound answer to all of this is, YES.

The countless talks and reassurances that my husband has had to participate in and hand out are much more than I want to admit. The amount of time I’ve spent stewing over selfish thoughts and feelings are quite frankly embarrassing at this point. I’m not ashamed to admit them though. I won’t hide and pretend like they haven’t happened or that they don’t exist at times. The main reason is, at the end of the day I believe these moments have made both of us better. My husband has learned to give more at times when I’ve needed it. He’s learned to think things through further and to make sure he is still prioritizing our family, our marriage, and our 2 young boys when it has been needed. He has learned to love me better and to let me “run away from home” when I’ve needed to. He has also been a safe and loving place to come back to when I start to miss it.

What I have learned, that if I’m going to claim to love this man, that means I am going to need to commit to loving ALL of him. I have to love the things that challenge me in ways I don’t like. I have to embrace the feelings that hurt and scare me. Those things that have brought some demons out I didn’t know I was carrying. I have to be thankful for another unsavory part of myself that I realize I need to shed. I have to put myself aside sometimes, just as my husband does. Through my faith and prayers, when I am able do these things and I witness a victory, it is just that much sweeter.

The positives and the intangibles, I am so thankful that our boys are being raised in an active household. I am thankful that running is one of the avenues in which our children see us taking care of ourselves. I am beyond thankful for the ways that myself and our children have been embraced at Pint Striders events and Run Project races, and that they see a community of positive people from all walks of life and beliefs embracing each other. I am thankful for the level of respect that is displayed in our home for each other’s passions. I am thankful that our children see this. I am so, so thankful for the love I receive from a runner.

At the end of the day, the thing that I wanted to hate, the thing that at times I’ve tried to wish away, the thing that has seemed like a thorn in our side, has become one of our family’s greatest blessings.

So, how do you support a runner? Give of yourself until it hurts, and then give some more. When you are hurting allow the community around you to know about it, to lift you up, to dust you off and help all of you to keep going.