January 17 2018
Renee DeMarsh thrives on extreme physical challenges. She'll soon participate in the 2018 World Marathon Challenge.
I never imagined I would fall in love. Even typing those words seems strange. Me? The cynic? The sarcastic one? The “tomboy”? (I can write a whole other blog post about why I loathe that phrase.) But I digress. Me? In love? In a healthy relationship? NEVER.
See, I had awful relationships in my 20s—a few of which contributed to my depression and poor self-image. I was so eager to be loved that I often would do things I didn’t even enjoy or agree with in an effort to please my partner. I thought love meant having no boundaries and experiencing jealousy and hurt. So when I met my current partner on the run, I had no idea the respectful relationship we had could ever in fact be love.
I met him in 2013 when I had been searching (read: stalking) for relevant, running-related hashtags on Instagram and came across @alacrityamir using “#WeRunHarlem.” I had been using #HarlemRun and was curious to meet the person who had the nerve to use so similar a tag (ha!). I showed up for his run on a Sunday morning hosted at his church and was not initially impressed by the experience. I left feeling somewhat confused and still upset that there was “competition” in my neighborhood. Luckily, our relationship didn’t end there. Amir followed up with me and attended one of my runs, proving to me he was interested in collaboration and we begin to talk ideas. Before we knew it, we had decided to combine forces to embrace our joint mission of empowering urban communities to get fit. Harlem Run is the product of our collaboration—along with the efforts of seven other captains and pacers who are committed to transforming the lives of urban communities through passion, service and curated running experiences.
I know now that if I had continued this process alone, Harlem Run would never have gotten this far, touched so many lives, or created such a lasting impact. Collaboration, not competition, was the cornerstone of our friendship.
What began as a friendship morphed into something more when we both found ourselves single and figured, why not? The beauty of dating an endurance athlete is that you have a shared understanding of the discipline, commitment, and flexibility required to get through difficult situations, both on and off of the pavement.
I’m lucky to have met him on the run. But it’s only because I was able to find my best self on the run FIRST. Running gave me confidence, gave me a community, gave me a sense of identity and gave me meaning. Once I had that, love came naturally.