Love at First Run
Falls Church couple Monica Boland and Aaron Alford chronicle their return to a running lifestyle.
Monica: Two years ago, I would’ve rather been caught dead than seen mid-run by the object of my affection. And yet, there I was, running uphill in 90-degree weather with sweat dripping down my beet-red face – and Aaron just so happened to pass me in his car. I nearly died. Before I could speak, he had parked his car, put on his running shoes and finished climbing that monster hill with me. We had only been dating for a few weeks. Aaron was training for an ultra-distance trail race right before we met, put on hold due to an injury. I, on the other hand, had run off and on but never more than six miles at any given time.
Yet not once during that run did he make me feel as though I couldn’t keep up or that I was slowing him down in any way. Quite the opposite – we laughed together, stopped and stretched, took our time and really enjoyed ourselves, something that I didn’t know was possible on a run. I found myself beginning to trust him in a very deep and profound way through this supportive experience. On our first run together, I realized that I wanted to make running a priority in my life. Several dozen runs later, I realized that Aaron was the man that I wanted to go through life with – both on and off of the trail.
Aaron: Fortunately, our romance is hale and hearty to this day. Unfortunately, our running habit has suffered seriously from striving and driving to build careers and a life in Falls Church. We are both several years into our professional careers (journalist and scientist) and the demands on our time seem endless. Growing sound resumes, paying school loans, saving for a house, freelancing, peer-reviewed articles, conferences, networking, family obligations, volunteer work, starting a non-profit with friends – the list goes on and on. All are worthwhile and necessary to some degree but none has the fitness or relaxing effects of running.
When we first met, I was looking to transition from obsessive ultra-distance running to a more sustainable level of mileage. Monica found a new interest in longer miles. After several months of training, Monica declared her interest in longer distances. We strove through hot summer nights and drove through runs in shin-deep snow. We talked through problems on eight-mile runs, confided in each other through sweaty tendrils of hair and shared the injuries and pleasures of building a mileage base.
One particularly sweltering evening, Monica declared that she was ready for a half marathon. I thought she meant that she was ready to sign up for a half marathon. Not a chance. She meant “Right now!” I strapped on a CamelBak and we set out on the W&OD Trail to complete her first 13.1-mile run. After two hours, blisters, cramps, an ITB flare-up and at least one blood sugar crash, she declared her first distance victory.
That was the end of serious distance for us. Our work ambitions put a damper on the growing miles. While we have continued to run, we barely qualify as fitness runners. A friend’s request for support during her first 5K has awakened the old desire for mileage, running buddies, open trails and sweaty running shoes.
Monica & Aaron: Our goal is to share the story of how we build motivation to run consistently and construct a healthy lifestyle in the midst of the challenges of our daily lives. We hope that we can provide encouragement to local runners experiencing a similar lull in their routine. We would also like to act as a sounding board for the Falls Church running community. Feel free to send us your comments, questions, suggestions, running stories or favorite trail/route. We would love to hear from you!