When your partner isn’t a runner
By Alexa Hasman
I come panting in through the front door, covered in mud and pull off my dirty shoes and socks to reveal my usual bloody toes and cut up legs. My husband just looks at me and continues with his day as if this is a totally normal thing, because for him, it is.
The day before a long run I am packing up my gear, eating midnight bagel snacks and talking about my excitement for the route I created. In the morning, I wake up before the sun rises and try to creep out without waking the small humans upstairs. My husband sends me off with a “good luck, have fun”.
Race week arrives and I am busy running around with anxious excitement as I prepare for days and nights of physical, mental and emotional strain. I go through the elevation maps, my race plan, express anxiety and fear about my upcoming race and my husband looks at the graphs blankly and says “that looks really hard”.
This is the life of an ultrarunner with a partner that doesn’t run. This can create an interesting dynamic in a relationship and one that takes careful navigating and awareness. It can take a toll on a partnership at times and in other ways can bring you closer together.
In my years of ultrarunning I have found several things to be true and helpful for a relationship with one runner and one less running inclined.
- Make time: Running takes hours and hours of time. Not only the actual running itself but the preparation and driving to the trails, etc. There are many long runs where I am gone a good portion of the day. Obviously, this can create resentment, loneliness, etc in a relationship. Make time to spend quality time with your partner. When I am gone on these long adventures, I make sure my next day is free of any other obligations and it is completely dedicated to family and showing that I am there and present for that relationship. I am also lucky that I can make the time to do these runs on a day where my partner is working and it doesn’t impede on our time together, so if this is an option for you, I suggest long runs Fridays or Mondays!
- Communicate: When I first started running 30+ mile training runs I would often say “I’ll be home by …” now I don’t do that anymore. Sounds like the opposite of communication, right? Well, I found that I was always wrong on my time assessment and since I was often out of cell range, this led to worry and strain. Now, I say “I am predicting around this time, however, it may be later and I will communicate with you any and all updates I have when I have service”. This tends to make the day less worrisome for the partner.
Beyond communicating about run times, communicating hopes, dreams and goals can help tie your partner to your running and help them better understand and support you.
- Show appreciation: Being a partner to a runner is hard. We smell bad, we are dirty and sweaty often and we are often out with our running friends on the long endless single track. Show them you appreciate them by telling them as often as you can. I tell my husband how much I appreciate that he isn’t embarrassed by my black toenails and bloody legs when we go out to fancy dinners. I appreciate that he will carry me on his back in parking lots when I sprain my ankles and I appreciate him letting me cry on his shoulder when I have a bad race.
- Don’t push them: I used to want to share my love of running with my partner but over time I have learned that my passion doesn’t have to be theirs. I can love running separate from my husband and it’s ok if he doesn’t have the same relationship with running as I do. In fact, it can be better to have one sane person in the partnership.
- Support their hobbies: My husband loves golf. I think there couldn’t possibly be a more boring and dull sport in this entire world. Granted, my husband probably thinks the same about running for hours in the forest. Agree to disagree. With long runs, come long golf days. There is a trade off and I support his love for hitting a tiny ball into a tiny hole. Like he remembers Killian Jornet, David Roche, and Sabrina Stanley from all my running fangirling, I remember Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith and Phil Mickelson.
- Make them part of our running life: Include them in your hobby. My husband doesn’t come to my races but I have him go over the maps and watch videos with me before. It bonds us and helps him understand what I am doing. I ask him to make a Western States bracket each year and we have fun seeing how poorly we guessed. Making him part of my hobby makes our bond stronger.
Runners can be tough to be around, we talk about running and only running more often than not. It’s easy to get lost in this crazy sport we love so much and for our partners to feel left behind. I hope these tricks I have learned over the years help to keep your relationship and your running reaching new PR’s.