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Wife takes husband's money and runs... runs... runs...

Published in THE SNOWMASS VILLAGE SUN  July 29, 1981

By Ann Carol Ulrich

It started out as a bet. For years my husband Jeff had been trying to get me to run, but without success. Oh, I tried now and then. I would get enthused and start jogging, but it never lasted more than a week.

I hated jogging. I felt guilty because I knew better. I wanted to have a healthier body. I wanted to carry with me into my middle life a strong heart and lungs. Yet, I found a million excuses not to run.

"I don't have time," "I can't leave the kids," "I just ate," "It's raining (or snowing)," "I can't get up early in the morning," and "I feel like such a fool" are only a few of the more classic excuses I used to give to get out of running.

The plain truth is I loathed the thought of all that exertion. I couldn't stand to get sweaty and hot. I hated to have anybody watch me. Most of all, I didn't want Jeff, or anybody for that matter, telling me I had to do it.


After the birth of our second son, I became oblivious to exercise. It was always in the back of my mind, a haunting little voice that cried, "You know, you should get back into doing some yoga," but I had too many diapers to change, a job that took up my spare time, and I was ever complaining of never being able to get anything done.

In the meantime, my body was beginning to resemble a bell. I was growing more and more dissatisfied with what greeted me in the mirror each day. "Do something!" the little voice demanded, and I felt helpless.

My husband works for the Forest Service and each spring must pass what they call the "step" test. it's a physical stress test that firefighters must pass before they are allowed to go on any forest fires. So Jeff was jogging regularly, two miles a day, to get his pulse down to par.

When I came up with my line of redundant excuses to join him in running, Jeff came up with a brilliant suggestion. "I'll bet you $500 you can't run a mile every day for a month," he challenged.

Ha! That was ridiculous, I thought. I could never meet that challenge. Why, every day for 30 days straight? Forget it. I knew myself and how many times I had failed in the past. So I turned him down... at first.

And then I began to think of all the things I could do with that $500. All the little things that our budget doesn't allow for. A savings account hadn't been in our names since we were first married. Suddenly there was a goal.


I began running. Not a mile in the beginning, but I went as far as as I could go. It was just like in the past -- hard work that had me panting and sweating -- trying to get used to the aching muscles in my rubbery legs. I hated it. And I didn't work out every day. I was beginning to think the $500 was all a dream.

Then on a Saturday evening, after both kids were in bed and asleep, Jeff suggested we run. I had never gone out at night. "But it's dark," I protested, proud of myself for inventing an original excuse for a change. But he wouldn't listen. Grudgingly I pulled on the sweat pants and muttered, "Oh, all right, but I won't go as far as you."

I stretched and prepared myself for the torture. Then we began to run. The air was cool and fresh. It was thrilling to feel myself gliding through the night, not caring how far ahead things were. It felt like I was running faster than I did during daylight. And the best part was no one could see me.

I think I astonished myself more than Jeff when I came to the end of my usual route and decided to try going on. By the time I reached the half-mile landmark and turned around to head back, I realized I was going to do it. And I did. I celebrated Day One of our bet.


The first days of running were the most difficult. I kept telling myself I could still back out. It was a real effort to get myself going, and I couldn't expect Jeff to openly encourage me -- not with his $500 at stake. I had sore legs, sore hips and a sore back.

About a week later I developed painful ankles. Running on pavement, I found, was detrimental to unprotected feet. I would come home after my run and limp around for an hour. The skin swelled up and caused my heels to throb. I was in sheer agony and desperately in need of a decent pair of running shoes.

I probably should have quit then. Even Jeff tried to coax me into calling off the bet. Not even five hundred bucks was worth ruining my feet, he contended. But I couldn't bear the thought of quitting just when I was starting to like running.

So I went out and purchased a $36 pair of Osagas, cushioned for jogging, with lots of ankle support. The difference it made cannot be emphasized enough. i remember that first night in the new shoes, feeling like I was part of the wind, flying full speed down the hill. They say joggers never smile when they're doing their thing. Well, I was. And after two nights the pain in my feet had totally disappeared.


I usually tried to run at dusk, but there were some evenings when it got too late. Jeff ran with me sometimes and I found that running with him caused me to really push myself to keep up. My route took me through winding roads and one section in particular was completely black; no streetlights, with plenty of bushes -- a perfect hideout for a rapist, I imagined. There was a hill I had to chug up before this lonely stretch, and I often wondered whether I would have the strength to outrun am ambusher.

So I insisted that Jeff ride his bicycle alongside of me. We would joke about him riding the bike four feet behind me and cracking a whip. But I felt a lot more confident when he was with me, even if his motive was probably just to check up on me, to keep me from cheating.

Now the bet has been won and the 30 days are over, but I have no intention of giving up my nightly jaunt. Even the half a grand is not the important thing it was in the beginning. I've gained something a lot better -- stronger legs, endurance, sleep-filled nights, and half an hour out of my day just for myself in which my thoughts are my own and I haven't a care in the world.

I feel wonderful, physically and mentally. Going back to the lifestyle of not running every day is unthinkable. I owe it all to my husband Jeff. I'm ready now to run farther. Hey, I wonder... if I ran two miles... for 60 days... perhaps he'd pay me $1,000?




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