An Open Letter to the Guy in College Who Told Me Not to Run a Marathon

Dear J,

You’ll notice I’m just going to call you J throughout this letter—that’s because I don’t want to be the person who outs you as the idiot who told one of the most stubborn girls in the world not to do something.  It wasn’t smart, dude.  You should have known that it would only motivate me, that I would let it fester until I decided to write this passive-aggressive letter to you and post it on the internet.  Luckily for me (and you, really), you don’t frequent social media.  It’s for the best.

Let me bring you back in time, J, back to when we sort of knew each other, back to when I let you into a little corner of my universe and you stomped all over my dreams.

The year was 2011.  Okay, it’s not all that long ago, but five-ish years seems long when I’ve been around less than three decades.  Here is the setting—a small, liberal arts college in west Michigan often hit by lake-effect snow and home to the prettiest tulips I’ve ever seen.  I was a senior in my final college semester, and I was in my final required General Education class—Senior Seminar.  The way that our college did these Senior Seminar courses was they were split into topics, but the goal for everyone was to write a lifeview paper at the end.  How do I describe a lifeview paper?  It was a personal statement of sorts, a blip in a person’s life where they were forced to clearly map out their personal views, thoughts, and beliefs.  It was what I needed then.  I was five-ish months out from the breakup from hell, and I was finally feeling like myself again.  It was time for me to figure out who I was alone, and Senior Sem seemed like a good place to do it.  I chose a topic that I think a lot of people would shy away from, because of course I did.  The class was called Dying, Healing, Thriving, and like I said, it was exactly where I needed to be.

I won’t get into too many details, but I’ll say this—I developed a crush on a guy in that class.  It was my first time being single in more than two years where I was actively developing crushes on people again, so I fell harder than was probably warranted in the situation.  That was you, J.  Did you know that this was happening?  Did you know that I found your intelligence inherently attractive, and that I was energized by your near-constant cynical sarcasm?  You maybe did.  I tried to play it off like we were class-friends (because we kind of were), but like I said, I wasn’t very well-practiced.

Anyway, in that final semester, I realized all the things I missed out on in college.  I had been too wrapped up in a doomed relationship, too scared and anxious and set in my ways.  So I made a bucket list, which included a pre-graduation list.  I wanted to do things before I left that place.  I got my roommates to help me accomplish some of them, and some of the few other remaining friends I had said they’d help too.  And one day, I sent you the list, too.  Because of the crush and all.  I asked what you thought (or something like that).

Running a marathon was on that list.

And you told me not to do it.

Of the things I learned about you in that semester, I think I underestimated your own stubbornness.  Thinking back on it, my crush was entirely futile.  We would have been like oil and water, too set in our own ways to mix properly.  But at the time, I was just… stunned.  Who looks at someone’s list of goals and tells them not to attempt one of them?

Seeing Mount Everest was on it too, but you didn’t object to that.

At this point in the semester, I could see that you were not so much playing hard-to-get as just not into me (again, this was for the best—I can see it now).  I was already moving on to crushing on L, who is a whole other story for another time (or never, more likely, since this is ancient history now).  But I was still mad about it.  I told myself then—it was mid-March 2011, right around spring break—that when I achieved that goal, I’d make sure to rub it in your face, J.  You’re not the only one who can run 26.2 miles (which you had), and just because you found it to be a stupid exercise in human endurance doesn’t mean that we’d all feel that way.

The irony of all of this is that you were dating a runner at the time, J.  Oh, did I not mention that?  Yeah, you had a girlfriend, probably another reason you were definitely not into me.  Also, I was annoying and didn’t know how to be single and was discovering how feminist my beliefs truly were (ahem, lifeview paper).  Your girlfriend ran several marathons in the time you were together (all of this information I gathered from Facebook), and YOU EVEN RAN ANOTHER ONE.  Jerk.  I wanted that marathon so badly.  But here’s what I learned.

Sure, a marathon is maybe a stupid exercise in human endurance.  But I was a quitter, J.  I was a quitter when you knew me.  And running a marathon, for some reason, was going to be the thing where I proved to everyone that I wasn’t a quitter anymore.  It didn’t turn out that way.  By the time I started running and realized that my long legs actually made it a suitable sport for me, I got injured and was forced to quit.  And that made me even more angry than you did when you told me not to run the marathon, because I was finally ready.  I was ready, damn it.  I wanted it so badly.  But I had to work.  Sure, I stopped being a quitter when I earned a Master’s degree while working full-time, and when I finished my first novel, and when I went all in with my now-husband even though I was terrified.  But I still didn’t like to work.  I wanted it to be easy.  Let me tell you, running 26.2 miles isn’t easy.  It hurts, and it sucks the life out of you, and it makes you want to just lie down on the side of the road and go to sleep for a while.  I know that now.  So when we moved to Texas and I started working from home, I started working on me too.  I cross-trained, I got healthy, I put in the hours and the miles.  By the time I actually did the damn thing (ran a marathon, that is), you were so far in my past, J, that I couldn’t even rub it in your face because you wouldn’t know who I was anymore.  And that kind of sucks.  So I’m writing this letter to you and posting it on the internet, because maybe you’ll see it and your cynical, sarcastic self will get a kick out of it because this weird girl who you knew for one semester in college has been obsessed with something you told her for five years.


In closing, I was watching the World Series and saw the Cubs setting up a Suicide Squeeze and I thought of you.  Yes, I have always known what a suicide squeeze is, and I’ll never forget the one time I got confused out loud and you corrected me.  Under your breath.  In front of the class.  Like a jerk.

I hope you’re well.  I hope you got what you wanted out of post-college life.  I hope your research is going well.  I hope you’ve found what you were looking for.

Go Cubs.  And don’t you worry, I’ll be running more marathons.


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