Marathon (Wo)Man: The Couple That Runs Together… Isn’t Us.

You see them occasionally running around the park. Invariably, she has a ponytail, and he a floppy mane that seems to lift up and down to the same beat that her ponytail bobs back and forth. One or perhaps both of them is showing belly button, as they have the sort of bellybuttons – entire upper torsos, really – that deserve to be shown.

They are a running couple. Not only do they share a life, a home, a child perhaps; they also share simpatico per-mile-averages, it would seem. Good for them!

On very rare occasions – a vacation, regularly in the past when we were young and naïve – my fiancé and I will and have run together. But, for the most part, we work alone. No less than two minutes separate my best mile time from his. On race day, his number is typically red, as if somehow the first color of the rainbow denoted some kind of special honor. Mine is purple or pink or brown (whatever might that denote?).

I joke, with half seriousness, that if he gained 20 pounds or had to recover from a minor injury and I suddenly shaved off a minute off my miles, we could meet in the middle. Perhaps I should let him indulge in a cocktail binge every night while I slave away on the treadmill, pressing the up button over and over until I can’t keep up and I go flying off the machine in middle of Double Jeopardy. A Crunch gym manager would glance over at my carnage disinterestedly, then ponder liability issues, then return to her task of figuring out which of my favorite yoga teachers to fire.

The above events have yet to happen (save for Crunch disposing of favorite yoga instructors), so we continue to run our separate ways. I’m good with that.

I’m of the mind that doing sports with your partner is often better in theory than practice. Perhaps it all relates back to a ski trip I took with my best friend and her less-than-stellar high school boyfriend in my formative years. My friend and I were both novice skiers having a pleasant enough day on the bunny hill while her boyfriend ignored us and skied on his own. Perhaps there was another douchey high school dude with him, I really can’t recall. Towards the end of the skiing day, some unwise decisions were made, as they often are at the end of a skiing day. We decided to all to do a run together. My friend had some trouble getting on the chairlift. A lot of trouble, actually… she ended up twisted underneath it. The machine had to be stopped while they untangled her. The line of skiers behind us gawked and sighed. The boyfriend laughed; girlfriend cried.

Sure, not all guys are jerky high school boys (though many have one dwelling inside of them, beneath layers of civility and the maturity that comes with wearing pants that actually fit)… and hopefully, if you’re reading this, you are not dating or married to a jerky high school boy. But I think there’s something to be said for letting everyone involved engage in athletic endeavors at their level. I don’t want to hold anyone back, I don’t want to be forced to go at a pace that isn’t mine, and I don’t want to be held back myself.

Being the slower half of a couple has tremendous advantages. I highly recommend it. You can request that your partner greet you at the finish line or the end of a long training run with a glitter sign, fresh bottle of water, and even a pack of healthy almonds. You never have to wait for the slower person to finish. (The flip side is that you may be asked to handle checking bags on race day because your group starts a few minutes later. Don’t make that a habit. The bag check can be very, very far away from the start line and not all that clearly marked. Just because you’re the slower half doesn’t mean you should end up starting 20 minutes after struggling to find the right place to securely dump a bag containing old sweatshirts and sports sandals.)

The fiancé and I are both running the New York Marathon this fall. We’re on different training plans during the week, but we try to do our long run together since it consumes a sizable chunk of weekend. By together, though, I mean we bike to the park together, stretch together, then part ways for the next 12 miles or so of our life. Maybe, if I’m feeling romantic, I’ll let him press the “Start Activity” on my RunKeeper app before I trot off.

As I start planning our wedding and all that adult contemporary, I have moments where I ponder what being married, versus living together, as we have for many years (yeah, we’re those people), means for one’s independence. There are many things about weddings that I love (in fact, I may have procrastinated while writing this by looking at someone’s wedding pictures on Facebook and perusing a blog for “modern brides”). But there are also some things that creep me out. Phrases like “man and wife” and “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” make me uncomfortable. Why does a union mean that Jane is no longer known by name or even as a woman? Perhaps it’s that discomfort, along with my slower miles, that make me happy not to be part of that running couple.

Back at the park, the long-run miles go on and on. We switch directions as we run around the track, which means we pass each other a few times. We’ll smile, wave, maybe even blow a kiss (cheese alert), as we pass each other. Then we keep running at our own pace, doing our own thing.



Hailey Eber is Marathon (Wo)Man, and is currently training for the New York Marathon. She is on Twitter. Her dog is on Tumblr.

Training Week 1 Summary

Miles logged: 22
Longest run: 12 miles
Log run haiku:
Fast man with bare chest
Pierced Nipples. Do they chafe?
I have to wonder
Long run fuel: Sport Jelly Beans, fruit punch flavor
Post run recovery food: Banana + strawberry + raspberry + almond butter smoothie
New equipment purchased: Mizuna shorts (black), Nike racerback tank top (purple), Nathan Quickdraw Elite Handheld Water Bottle (teal)
Justification for new equipment: It’s hot, you deserve something pretty for all these long runs; it’s really hot and water belts are annoying and you deserve something hydrating and pretty for those long runs.

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    • Stacy

      Ha! The goal of my 1st 10k was to beat my husband in…and he was running the half marathon.

    • SpaceySteph

      Aw my boyfriend and I run together… but we are not fast, and I guarantee you don’t want to see our belly buttons.