She runs because he cannot.
Columbus resident Leslie Rude found the motivation to train for the Mill Race Marathon from her late husband, Jared Rude.
Jared Rude, who died in August from colon cancer at the age of 27, was described by his wife of less than a year as a “huge fitness buff.”
“I grew to love it,” Leslie Rude said.
She used to run a couple miles here and there, but life became crazy as her husband’s health spiraled.
Now Rude, a mother and a teacher at Northside Middle School, has made a commitment to herself to run the distance: 26.2 miles.
She completed the Indianapolis OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in early May, and now she is ready for the next challenge.
Rude will write a weekly diary for The Republic as she prepares for the Sept. 27 race. She will share her journey as a beginner runner who is juggling fresh grief, single motherhood and the trials of being a middle-school teacher.
Life after loss
When Jared Rude was diagnosed in February 2011, neither he nor Leslie Rude accepted the grim outlook.
They had been planning to get married in March 2013 and talked about starting a family.
Family: 4-year-old son, Nolan
Occupation: Teacher at Northside Middle School
Running history: Completed the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon this year in 2:14
Goal for Mill Race Marathon: Finish 26.2-mile race
Off and running
Kids Fun Run 0.12 to 1.24 miles
6 p.m. Sept. 26 in Mill Race Park, free with advanced registration.
SIHO 5K 3.1 miles
8:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Washington and Fifth streets, $25 to register through Sept. 24.
Half-marathon 13.1 miles
7:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Washington and Fifth streets, $60 to register through Aug. 15.
Marathon 26.2 miles
7:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Washington and Fifth streets, $80 to register through Aug. 15.
But by late September 2012, it became clear that their anticipated wedding date would be too late, and that the dream of having children together would not materialize.
The doctor told Jared he had six months to live and that he should withdraw his retirement savings and do something special.
“That appointment is when we kind of made peace with the thought,” Leslie Rude said. “He was still really strong and really healthy. You could look at him and never know. It was such a weird experience. Are you looking at the same person? How can that be going on in there?”
Half an hour after they left the appointment, they called their pastor at The Ridge and asked to get married that same week.
With the help of a “wedding fairy” and small group at The Ridge, Jared and Leslie Rude were married on Sept. 20, 2012.
They were expecting a quick ceremony in nice dress clothes in the pastor’s office. Instead, Leslie Rude found a sign pointing her to the bride’s dressing room. As one woman sewed a too-big wedding dress onto Leslie, others worked on her hair and applied her makeup.
“There was a professional photographer, and someone had made a cake from scratch, and there little party favors,” she said. “It was the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to me.”
She said as things got hard on her and Jared, the strangers who organized her wedding became more like family and best friends.
After her husband’s death 11 months later in August 2013, Rude said she could not handle sleeping alone in their shared apartment.
“These full-grown women who have their own families were just so selfless,” she said. “They made out a schedule to come sleep on the air mattress beside me.”
Carol and Glyn Price, two members of The Ridge who were a central part of Leslie’s support group, stepped up to help. They offered a room in their Tipton Lakes home for Leslie and her son to live, ridding her of the financial and emotional burden of the old apartment.
“They said, ‘We have this space, and we love you, and we’d love to support you in this way,’” Leslie Rude said.
The Prices have a son with Asperger’s syndrome and were not sure how independent he would be when he was grown. They built a self-contained basement apartment for him, but he ended up moving to his own place in Columbus.
“It was kind of a godsend, that apartment,” Glyn Price said. “She just came in as part of the family. She has fit right in, and it’s wonderful to have her.”
They have bonded as family and as athletes. Price is a veteran marathon runner and guides Rude and gives her running tips, although he said Rude is dedicated and disciplined enough to do it on her own.
“Something like this is tough, but I can do tough things,” Rude said. “I’ve learned that recently.”
Finding a rhythm
Rude calls this summer “the perfect storm” for running a marathon.
She lives with a family of experienced runners, school is out for the summer, and her son, Nolan, is living part time with his biological father.
“I feel kind of guilty that I have this free time,” she said.
Her past few summers have been consumed by health and hospice. But she’s filling her time now with reading — her book count is at six — and fitness.
Not only is she training for the Mill Race Marathon but also the running portion of the Columbus Challenge Triathlon.
So she’s mixing 3-mile sprints in with her long-distance training — and it’s helping her mental game.
“I’m mentally tough now,” Rude said. “I’m a teacher, so it’s like studying for a test. You put in the work and you study the whole time and don’t try to cram it in the night before, then you’re prepared.”
But tough does not mean immune.
She recalled a 12-mile training run for the 13.1-mile half-marathon when she hit a wall at mile 9.
“I looked at Glyn and said, ‘I need you to tell me a 3-mile-long story,’” she said. “It was a mental battle. I felt like I was crawling, but Glyn got me through it.”
Price also got her through the half-marathon last year in 2:14, Rude said.
It was his confidence, his guidance that made the difference.
He said it was her competitive spirit that moved her across the finish line.
“My body was ready, but mentally I felt strong, too,” Rude said. “That felt like a huge accomplishment. It’s the best I’ve ever felt, for sure.”
Right now her biggest challenge is the cross-training. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Rude kayaks and kickboxes.
She’s feeling good about her training this year for the full marathon, and she said she will stay on track — for her late husband.
“He was so positive,” Leslie Rude said. “Always, always positive. It feels good to know he would be really proud of me.”