I was, at the time, designated Kit Queen for my (then) running club. Gav was a member of said running club.
This is how it all began…
From: Gavin Dodd
To: Rachel Cullen
Hi. I’d like to order a new club vest, please. Not sure whether I’m small or medium so will take both and bring one back. I work at the Lloyds Copley Data Centre and can collect from you when convenient.
From: Rachel Cullen
To: Gavin Dodd
Yes, sure, that’s fine. I live in Copley and you’re welcome to collect whenever convenient. I’ll have both sizes ready for you.
See you shortly,
I opened the door and he stood there smiling as though he’d just seen sunshine for the first time. ‘Crikey, he must REALLY need a new vest!‘ I thought to myself, as he bounced his way back down my garden path with his two new club vests in hand.
And then, he stopped and turned around. I knew then, and it’s since been confirmed: he didn’t in fact need a new club vest at all.
From: Gavin Dodd
To: Rachel Cullen
I just wondered if you fancied going for a run some time? I run along the canal from work most lunch times, and if you ever wanted to join me I could call for you on the way?
Thanks for the vests BTW. The small is fine, so I’ll call by and drop the medium one off when convenient.
Let me know about the run.
That was late summer of 2013. It was the beginning of the most amazing friendship, and of our story: a real life love story.
We were nothing but a pair of running geeks on the cusp of forming a purely innocent friendship based on this fact alone.
I tried to put off going running with him for as long as I possibly could, being completely terrified that I’d simply embarrass myself, causing entirely avoidable personal humiliation. After all, I’d happily been running by myself for a long, long time. Although I’d enjoyed becoming a member of the running club and the social side I’d discovered, I wasn’t particularly looking for a ‘running buddy’ – least of all a married one.
Gav wouldn’t let the matter lie, and his persistency eventually paid off. Our first ever run together was painless enough – for me, anyway. Unbeknownst to me, he was harboring an achilles injury, and although we only did a few short, steady miles, they caused him untold agony. He never uttered a word, and I wouldn’t have had a clue he was in pain. He smiled and bounced his way through it. NOTHING was going to ruin that first run for him…
Over the subsequent weeks, we arranged to meet up and run along the canal together. It was convenient for us both. Plus, with his regular lunchtime running route from work taking him virtually past my front door – combined with his semi-stalker tendencies – it was increasingly difficult to think of any viable excuses not to.
Our similar outlooks on life, attitudes, ideals, dreams – even mistakes – quickly became apparent. And we laughed at the same stuff. Belly laughed – a lot. I remember glancing over to see him laugh out loud at something daft I’d said, and noticing the creases in the corners of his eyes. I loved those creases. I still do.
Our runs together became more frequent, and before long we were constantly in touch. We missed each other within an hour of being apart: weekends lasted an age, and in the absence of a race, we would have no justifiable reason to meet up. So we did lots of races.
We had daughters of the same age. Another sliding doors coincidence: born just three weeks apart, we’d even gone through that journey in parallel.
We knew what lives we’d lived without the need for explanation. And so, when no other option seemed viable, we rode the storm, and eventually set up camp together. Many times were fraught with challenges and upset. But those creases in the corners of his eyes were omnipresent.
And so fast forward to November 2016.
I’d just finished hanging out the washing. Remembrance Day Songs of Praise was on TV in the background.
‘It feels like the right time, Rach.‘ he said, looking slightly ashen. I glanced down at my feet: Nora Batty crumpled up long socks with slippers combo. Even the patterns clashed. I’d missed my stop on Planet Sexy and orbited right through to Gimp World where I’d hopped off, recognising it as being comfortingly familiar.
‘Will you marry me, Rachel?‘ he asked, as he kneeled down even closer to my goofy footwear. The only thing in my favour was the fact I didn’t have curlers in and a tabard on.
After my initial shock, followed by the more egotistical ‘NOOO!’ Not when I’m dressed as Nora Batty!‘ concerns had abated; once he’d stopped trembling and shaking (no, really) and my head had stopped revolving around on it’s own axis – we both knew. It HAD to be like this; it was so PERFECTLY geeky and gimpy, and imperfect. It was ENTIRELY us.
Since that first run along the canal together, we have completed:
over 20 10ks
16 half marathons
5 full marathons
and any number of other races, from 5ks to 20 milers; cross countries to races across sand.
They are some of the happiest memories of my life.
[*And of course I said YES! We will get married in a way that typifies us: There will be a healthy dose of geekism; a good sprinkling of imperfection; and a very VERY large dose of laughter. Although I plan on leaving my Nora Batty footwear at home for the day, I won’t be out of it for very long.]
Who knows – there may be a book in this, somewhere.
To be continued…