As we crest the top of a long hill, it takes all my effort to keep from letting on that my lungs are burning like the fire of some medieval torture device. Meanwhile, my wife is finishing up her story about the time she won a competitive 1500m race in college. When I manage to find the strength to look over, I see that she’s smiling and barely even tired. I try to slow down our pace nonchalantly, but she doesn’t get the hint, and soon enough my pride has me pushing myself so I can catch up to her.
This is what it’s like running with a wife who is much faster than I can ever imagine being. I’m not sure what it is. Put me on a bike and I can fly, but no matter how hard I train, I never seem to catch up to her ability.
For a long time this bothered me. A lot. So much so that I refused to run with her. Not that I told her as much, of course. But I became an expert at coming up with excuses as to why I was going to go out later or earlier or tomorrow or any time that wasn’t with her. Eventually it even became a point of real resentment for me, and one of disappointment for her. She loves to have me along – even if I’m no more than a silent partner.
As a man in a male-dominated society, I’ve been told my whole life that I’m supposed to be more capable than a woman, especially when it comes to physical activities. Our culture tells men that we are failures if we throw/ride/look/walk/talk/run “like a girl.”
Well one day I realized the truth.
On that day, as my wife turns to walk out the door – once again with a sad, disappointed look on her face – I’m slapped in the face by a moment of clarity.
Sports and Life
Being an athlete teaches us many things: self-sufficiency, pride, strength, and courage. But, perhaps most importantly, sports also helps us learn the greatest virtue of them all.
Life is full of failure. And being able to deal with what happens when the going gets tough – the ability to adapt – is something almost all successful people share in common. That’s because, of all the things in the world that determine the outcomes of our lives, so few of them are controlled by us as individuals. In other words, worrying about what we can’t control is a waste of resources that are better spent tackling the things that we can.
As the front door is about to close I shout, “Wait!”
The door stops short and then slowly opens again. My wife has a hopeful look on her face, but a skeptical one. She’s gotten so used to the disappointment of me turning her down that she doesn’t want to get her hopes up.
But as I tell her to hold on while I change, she smiles. When I get back from the bedroom, she’s sitting on the edge of the bench by the front door, still with a happy grin on her face.
As we start our run, I tell her how I feel. That I’ve always felt intimidated by her abilities. That it makes me feel weak. Strangely, as I say the words, I don’t feel like less of a man, but more of one. As we approach the big hill, I start to worry again. I start to dread that feeling of being small. Miraculously, however, those thoughts vanish out of my head as quickly as they came.
In unison, we march up the steep grade. Her talking. Me listening. Both of us smiling (mine is mostly an attempt to keep from crying due to the pain in my legs). Stronger together than we could ever be apart. And me with a dose of humility I can (and have) taken into all other aspects of my life.
Jake D. Parent is the author of Only the Devil Tells the Truth, a new novel set on the south side of San Jose during the 1990’s. It’s the story of a poor teenager named Nick Johnson who (together with two close friends) must navigate a world of poverty, drugs and alcohol, broken relationships, and wasted dreams.