My Partner Isn’t a Runner, Now What?
I’ve met countless couples that run together, and it seems like an ideal arrangement. But what if you don't have that advantage? My wife couldn’t be less interested in running, and most of my family and friends share a similar sentiment. Most people I know think “cardio is silly” and “running is just putting one foot in front of the other.”
It’s not like my spouse doesn’t try. I get running gear for Christmas and get some encouragement to pursue my goals. My spouse even surprised me at an ultra-marathon waving a motivational sign, despite feeling out of place because she was the only one there. While I am grateful, I wish I could have told her that marathons are a little more appropriate for that kind of cheering.
If your partner is not a runner, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. There are many considerations and solutions to make it all fit.
Regardless of your level of training, running is a pretty time-intensive sport. If I am training for a marathon, it's easy for that to take up to eight hours each week, and doesn't include travel, recovery, showers, expos, research, etc. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship like me or just started dating someone, it's important to communicate the time expectations for your training. The person you’re with will mind it less if there are concrete and set expectations in place. Update your partner if expectations change. Designate time for you to be together outside of running. The least happy couples seem to feel like their partner is always running, with the other person feeling judged constantly because there are no set boundaries.
Most of my vacations in the last few years have revolved around running. It can be a little harrowing for a partner who has no interest. I try to weave interesting attractions and nice restaurants into the packet pickup or post-race refueling if my partner comes along. While I need some recovery time post-race, as funny as it sounds, I bring a cane so I can hobble around at least to do some things my wife wants to do. Nothing is probably worse than making the entire trip about my race and then lying on my ass the rest of the time. If this sounds like too much of a compromise, travel alone or with friends. At least, designate some non-running vacations with your partner if they need to suffer through some running-centered ones.
Even if the vacation doesn’t involve a race, you may still want to run. I suggest running first thing in the morning and then coming back to enjoy breakfast together. If your partner is tired or wants a little downtime later, it makes a great opportunity to log a few miles. Sometimes, if we are planning to do something together in the evening, my wife will spend a lot of time getting ready, which opens up a good time-window to go running and get cleaned up in the same time-frame. If you’re female and reading this, I know it’s unfair. However, for the time when he’s catching up on sports, drinking beer, or whatever stereotypical thing we guys do, a similar time-window can also open for the ladies.
I would say the number one rule in being a runner with a non-running partner is: Do not force or pressure them into being a runner. The more you want someone to be a runner, the more they will probably be deterred or unattracted to doing so. Running has a special place in your heart — kind of like other people enjoy their World of Warcraft or basket weaving. It’s okay if you don’t have the same interests. Allow your partner to show genuine interest and welcome them to join you while accommodating to their skill level.
Honestly, if your partner isn’t into running, it may be more of a blessing than a curse. Everyone has their own set of goals, aptitudes, and rituals to the point that running together would be pretty isolating, regardless. If you compromise too much, it’s likely to take away from your development. If you compromise too little, you may run way ahead of the other person, anyway. Running can be social and a group activity, but most of it is pretty personal and solitary.
Running can be pricey. It doesn't cost much to just go out and run, but there are a lot of expenses that can go into it. Running gear, shoes, watches, races, coaching, travel, recovery, supplements, additional food — these things add up quickly. One of the best things about running is everyone at any income can enjoy it, but it’s best to not over-commit to expenses that will upset your partner or put your financial balance in jeopardy. Depending on the length, commitment, and financial structure of your relationship, you must make considerations. Looking at your budget, you probably want running to max out at about 10% of your expenses. So if you make $200–300 a week and rent is due, you may not want to sign up for another $150 race. Like anything else, communicate your goals and expectations so it’s known. Surprises and secretive race expenses can put a relationship in turmoil. It's more about being upfront, and less about the money. Lying can trigger distrust, or worse, the lack of encouragement for the hobby you love.
Being a runner with a non-running partner can be great, given the right level of communication and precaution. While I admire couples who run together, I feel like it is just as healthy to have a hobby that’s personal and rewarding to you only. Just make sure you let yourself be known so the other person understands.