By Amy Friel
The greatest love story I’ve ever heard begins with a road race.
It was late September of 1982, on a quiet college campus not far from the place where I grew up. They were both young, both students. He came from the big city; she was from a small town. It was your typical boy-meets-girl story.
Except in this story, the boy ran a breakneck 17:35 5K to win the day, and caught the eye of the girl, who had just taken silver in the women’s race.
It was love at first sight.
The coach introduced them after the race, and that was it: life, as they knew it, had changed forever. They dated for a while, then got engaged. They married young, and had adventures, and then babies, and then more adventures.
I should know: one of those babies was me.
My parents’ story is one of those rare, simple, lovely things – a fixture in the background of growing up, like Christmases or family jokes or those elaborate games we play as kids. It’s become a part of the fabric of my family life, and by extension, of me.
I’m sure that growing up in a family of runners shapes you in all kinds of ways. I’m equally sure that I’ll never fully appreciate the value of being raised by that sort of real, true, honest-to-goodness love. But if there’s one thing I can say with relative certainty, it’s that growing up with parents like mine has turned me into a hopeless romantic.
That is, a hopeless romantic with a Garmin.
I’ve spent the better part of my adult life running solo. And though I’ve had great loves (who ran variably great and not-so-great mile times), I have yet to find what my Mum and Dad found so easily on that college campus three decades ago. I guess soul mates can be hard to come by.
(Unless we’re talking about running shoes. I know all about finding sole mates.)
In the day-to-day grind of training, I’ve always been a lone runner. A long stretch of deserted road or trail is my idea of heaven. But even I can’t help but envy those unstoppable run
Maybe it’s because I grew up with some bizarre, distance running version of How I Met Your Mother, but nothing seems more romantic to me than a couple who trains together. Because really, what runner could resist the siren song of his-and-hers foam rollers, or a candlelit ice bath for two? Who among us hasn’t dreamt of bonding over black toenails and tight calf muscles, or a romantic destination marathon?
Okay, now that I’m saying it out loud, it does sound a little weird.
But what is love, really, if not mutual weirdness? Aren’t we all ultimately just trying to find some other weirdo with whom to obsess about mileage, PRs, and split times – the Wesley Korir to our Tarah McKay, the Chris Winter to our Rachel Cliff?
For me, the ultimate running power-couple will always be my Mum and Dad. They’re more than just a couple – they’re like a really tiny team. And I owe them credit for a lot of things – love, life lessons, support, guidance, genetic material… But one of the best gifts they ever gave me was the sport I love so much.
My parents made me a runner, and I’m grateful for that. Even if they did turn me into a hopeless romantic, too.