The morning the news broke that the union formerly known as Brennifer was no longer, Katie Couric on the Today Show breathlessly wondered, “If Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston can’t make it, who can?” With nothing against Brad and Jennifer, I was highly amused by Katie’s consternation. Because, while Jennifer and Brad are incredibly good looking and talented, I wouldn’t put those two attributes high on the list for what makes a marriage work.
This was on my mind last weekend as Mrs T and I had the privilege of attending my friends, Jack and Lindsey’s wedding. They are both runners and hard to the core. During the Vancouver Games, I witnessed the both of them work 16-24 hours at a whack and still find time to get in a run or a workout. Oftentimes, they got it done together. And in the long absence away from my family and wife, I would feel especially cheered to see them trotting off into the cool Canadian mornings for a loop around Stanley Park. Running shoulder to shoulder, they reminded me of how joyous it can be to share work with someone you love (or even like) and what a sturdy foundation a commitment to fitness can be for long term partnerships. In my life, it’s given focus to everything Lulu and I do, from how we organize our day to where we choose to live.
And running has been a major thread in the bond I have with Jack. We met up working on the Olympics but we got close during predawn runs in Central Park and on the track at Greenwich High. With each quarter repeat, we pushed each other just a bit harder, challenged one another to find just a bit more to throw down the homestretch when all we really wanted to do was throw up. We’ve hit the roads together in LA, Beijing and the trails above Vancouver. We’ve run when neither of us wanted to and we’ve had more laughs together than a pack of adolescent boys with a dime bag and a water pipe. Because of Jack, I’ve been a better runner over the past couple of years than I would have been otherwise. For that and much more, I owe him.
One day when we were talking about his upcoming nuptials, I told Jack that my pre-wedding run was one of the greatest in my life. In the middle of so much positive energy, taking the time to go out and get in some miles before waiting at the end of the aisle had been a wise decision. Cruising the 8.5 miles of my favorite run in Osterville gave me an hour to think about the day, my life that had been and my life to come. I shook out any nervous energy and finished up with a colossal runner’s high that took me through every moment of the day. I suggested he do the same and that I’d be honored to take the run with him, if he was interested. Jack said, “yes” and so we met up on Saturday in his hotel lobby at 8:15am and struck out on 70 minutes of the best Ithaca, New York has to offer.
Joining us was Jack’s cousin, Jake. A 1:54 half miler just finishing up High School, Jake has the kind of body that makes guys like me enormously grateful for the invention of shirts. I needed and wore one, he did not.
Of course, Jack and I are both highly competitive and somewhat immature. Though we paid decent lip service in our deference to young Jake’s prodigious talents, the groom and I were clearly out to test ourselves against the youngster. Unfortunately for him, Jake is from a section of Florida as flat as the tracks he dominates. I pointed our little three-man party towards the biggest hills in town (both trail and road) and opened up the throttle. Though the suffering was sizable, everyone enjoyed himself. And fitting for the occasion, Jack proved to be the strongest man on the day. Though it didn’t have quite the contemplative nature of my solo, pre-ceremony run it felt just as good, better actually, because it was shared by more than one.
When Lulu and I stood on the altar together, the one thing I remember the most was when the priest said, “There is no more ‘you’ and ‘I’. Now, there is only ‘us’ and ‘we’.”
Keeping that seismic shift front and center in my worldview has made for the best stretches in my marriage. The fact that Lulu can outwork anyone I’ve ever known and can handle Tour de France like suffering from the delivery room to the race course, makes the idea of “us” and “we” extremely palatable. I am quite certain, Lulu can tough out just about anything. I’ve seen it throughout our years together and am reminded of it, every time we get a workout in.
I must confess, I know very little about the work habits of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. Judging by their success, I assume they must be capable of doing some hard work themselves. But I wonder how hard they were working together on their marriage.
Saturday night offered up plenty of great images of Jack and Lindsey in love. But the one that I’m going to think of when I think of what they share together comes from a far less romantic setting. It’s the two of them hollow-eyed and pasty, strung out on too much stress and too little rest, running into the dark and rain in Vancouver. Side by side, getting in a bit of fitness together. Because they’re the kind of people that can get that done makes me believe, “that they will make it.” They’re built for the long haul and they’re just as good looking as Brad and Jennifer (maybe even a little more talented).