Last week when I was hiking with my friends, one of them asked me if I wished Kendell could run with me. He hasn’t been able to run since high school, because of his hip condition; when we met, he was already walking with a limp, so even when we were young and spry, we never even went on long hikes. He had both hips replaced ten years ago, when he was 39, and since then we’ve made up for those difficult years by hiking as much as possible. But one of the restrictions his orthopedist put on him is that he really shouldn’t run. Part of that is the nature of artificial hips, and part of it is that he has (in his doctor’s words) “large, sturdy, Scandinavian bones” and the impact of his bones would make his hip joints wear out more quickly.
I’ve thought about my friend’s question all week. On one hand, I wish we could run together. It would be great to have a built-in friend to go to races to, because then I wouldn’t have to sit by myself on the bus. If he could run, though, I’m certain he would be much faster than I am (those long, Scandinavian legs!), so we probably wouldn’t run together, just start together.
On the other hand (and I don’t know if this is selfish or not), I am glad to have running as my thing. I don’t really have to plan around anyone else’s schedule or needs, especially now that I don’t have little kids anymore. I can run whatever route I want because I’m not worrying about keeping anyone else happy. And, let’s face it, sometimes it is easy in marriage to lose part of your identity; to some people, I am not much more than “Kendell’s wife,” but running is mine, whether I’m married or divorced or a widow.
But I am so grateful that we can share hiking.
In fact, every time we got for a hike, there is always a moment when I think about the first 15 years of our marriage, when he was in pain all the time. I didn’t really even think much about hiking during those years, because I knew it would be too painful for him. So we’ll be hiking together somewhere, and something random will spark me, and I’ll get a lump in my throat and think this. This is a blessing.
Our hiking styles are different; I’m faster uphill and he’s faster downhill. I like to linger here and there, taking photos and admiring the view, but he’s more of a let’s-get-there-quick kind of hiker. Sometimes we’re hiking “together” just in the sense of “on the same trail at the same time.”
We eat totally different things while we hike—he likes beef jerky and salted nuts, I like something a little bit sweeter. (We both always enjoy some cold grapes at our destination, though.)
But together, we have seen so many amazing things. The top of Half Dome in Yosemite. The meandering view of southern Utah red rock from the Primitive Trail in Arches. Almost all of Bryce Canyon that hikers can get to. An ancient caldera in Hawaii, the island of Santa Cruz, the cool and silent groves of California’s redwood forests. The blossoming meadows of our very own Orem foothill trails, the tops of our local peaks, the crags of some of the Salt Lake County trails.
Modern medicine gave this to us. And every time we hike together, I am grateful in a joyous, sweet way that we can hike together. There are so many trails we still have to explore together, and one of my greatest hopes is that we will continue on, hiking together even when we’re old and grey and really, really slow. It strengthens our marriage, which strengthens our family; it helps me to forget the petty, everyday squabbles that every marriage holds. I might actually even love him the most this way, on a trail behind or in front of me as we both move our bodies upon this beautiful earth.