How I Accidentally Walked Thirteen Miles Pushing A Stroller

Nik decided at the beginning of the year to set some goals for herself. Among them was “Train For And Finish A Marathon.” This is a lofty goal for a girl whose doctors have told her the congenital herniated disc in her spine prohibits her from running. I like to tease her that this should pave the way for an awesome nickname like “Zombie Bait.” Not out loud, to her face, of course. That would be suicide. What I say to her face is, “It’s okay that you can’t run. If the zombie apocalypse is ever upon us, I will stay with you and we’ll be devoured together.”

I say this because by decree of a loving, sensitive wife she has to reply, “No! I’d have to be the bait so you could get our daughter to safety!” Then I can just look at her like I’m unconvinced but inside I know I’d totally hand her the shotgun and flee to the super awesome treehouse fortress Callie and I set up and I’d look back to see Nik taking down two, three dozen zombies in a really badass way with that shotgun and a tear of pride would slide down my face because let’s face it, shotguns are really loud and she hates loud noises. But she’d brave it out. For me. For us.

But I was talking about marathons. The vague goal that Nik set out to accomplish turned out to be vague enough to permit her to accomplish it with a few added specifics: namely, she would only do a half-marathon because full marathons are the same punishing distance as half marathons, twice. Also she would walk it because she doesn’t frequently adhere to doctor’s orders but when they say, “The next time you run you may snap your spine in half and spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair,” Nik is moderately more likely to take them seriously. It does pain me a little that her doctors know the only way to get her to listen is to over-exaggerate like that (at least, I assume it’s an over-exaggeration because a weakness like that sounds like the kind of thing that would offset a super-power, such as the ability to melt steel with her eyeballs or draw a perfectly straight line without the aid of a ruler).

Still, walking a half-marathon isn’t a watered-down goal. I realize some of you may be thinking, “Dude, that is totally a watered down goal,” which is fine, no one is policing your thoughts. But if you actually come right out and say that to me, I will devise a sinister contraption that forces you to walk and I will use it on you for thirteen point one miles and you will have no choice but to agree with me that walking a half-marathon is Serious Business.

I know this because I walked the half-marathon, too, albeit accidentally.

What happened was that Nik spent weeks training for this thing. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that at one point she walked nine miles in driving, icy wind and rain. She came home that day soaked to the bone and took the hottest shower I’ve ever conceived of (I know this because the steam alone in the bathroom when I went in to check on her an hour later scalded me). She walked up a hill so steep that its several hundred yard length was specifically designed by the training directors to equate to an entire mile of the course that week. She got out of bed before nine in the morning. On Saturdays. She was devoted.

As for me, I slept in and hung out with Callie. You want to know what we were doing while Nik was fighting the sleet and hypothermia and possible ankle ligament damage? Wait, did I mention that the week before the training began, Nik sprained her ankle? Yeah, that totally happened. She was on crutches with an air cast the week before she started training. It didn’t stop her. But while she was fighting with the elements and her body to achieve her goals, Callie and I were eating Cocoa Puffs and watching cartoons. In a way, I felt like I was showing support. I have no idea what way that was, looking back. It probably seemed like I was showing the opposite of support. I really seems now like I was showing… I dunno, what’s the opposite of support? Neglect. Yes, I was showing neglect. Although I wasn’t neglecting our daughter. Maybe that’s where I was coming from? It seems really fuzzy now. You know how it is when you get too much sleep.

Anyway, Nik trained and I watched cartoons with Callie. And then the big day arrived and we all got up early and drove over to the course where the marathon would take place. I knew Nik was nervous and it didn’t help that I decided to be a colossal jerk the night before. What happened was that we were in Target, which is a store that I… well I don’t hate it. I don’t like it, either. I mean, it’s a store. I can’t really direct strong emotions toward it. But let’s say this: It’s a store that Nik thinks of as a kind of second home, like a combination of Mecca and Disneyland. She can spend hours there. Days. I think the highlight of her year to date (and I’m including meeting this lofty marathon goal in the equation) was when they opened a new Target, a few exits down the highway from the old Target. She was so excited when she walked in she was buzzing. She made plans—plans!—to visit a Target in San Diego when she went down there. This is a town that boasts one of the most famous zoos and waterpark/aquariums in the country, and she’s made sure to put, in ink, Target on the itinerary. My point is that she takes her Target shopping very seriously. So we were in Target so she could get some appropriate marathon-walking pants. And I got cranky.

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