My husband and I have been half marathon training together for over a year now, but this was not a natural progression for us. When I signed up for my first half, back in February 2016, I assumed I would be on my own because we had always believed that we would be incompatible as running partners. After all, he is a natural runner whose pace is a full 2-minutes+ per mile faster than mine and I am not genetically engineered for running and have to work hard just to improve by the smallest of increments.
I have always wished I could be one of those women who can run effortlessly with a friend and maintain a casual conversation all the while running a 7 minute mile. The reality is that I can barely breath, let alone carry on a conversation, and spend most of the time wiping my nose on my sleeve.
Additionally, we have entirely different running goals. He wants to compete with his coworkers and break their running records, it does not faze him that these people are twenty years his junior! He is constantly trying to improve on his time (which is already pretty fast!) and, most importantly, get to the beer garden before all the cold drinks are gone.
By contrast, I just want to survive and it would be a nice bonus to be able to walk the next day. He is the hare that looks smooth and effortless while running
and I am the sweaty, hobbled tortoise that is covered in bugs that have been ensnared during my 2 hour, self inflicted torment. So, when we tell people that we are running together they naturally ask how that is even possible.
We have all seen those wonderful couples that have found that perfect compromise between achieving their personal goals and encouraging one another without conflict. Vanessa and Nick are one of those great partnerships. Vanessa is a writer living in Denver, Colorado and hosts The Real Life, a wonderful lifestyle blog that catalogs her love of running with her boyfriend and running coach, Nick.
I have been following The Real Life for some time now and have marveled at their ability to balance their different running styles and goals. I asked Vanessa how they pulled off this seemingly impossible feat given that Nick might have a 20-mile training run while she may be doing a 9 that same day. They have found that by splitting up the mileage, or changing their pace to accommodate one another, has enabled them to coordinate their training so that they can run side-by-side for a good portion of their training, and it is obviously working-just look how happy they are in this picture!
Actually, the running blogosphere is full of stories similar to Vanessa and Nick’s experience. Partnerships where running side-by-side are apparently effortless. But, what about the rest of us? Those couples who are confident that an argument or resentful feelings are waiting at the end of every finish line and believe that to run together you must be willing to dramatically alter your goals. Surely these people cannot run “together”. As I said already, we were also two of those skeptics. There was no way I could speed up to run next to him, as I would not last half a mile at his pace, and he does not posses the patience to slow down to accommodate my speed.
He would rather have his fingernails pulled off with pliers than go that slow!
Surly, this would end our marriage for good if we tried to train together, right?
Spoiler alert: we did figure it out, but not because we actively tried, we sort of fell into it.
Initially, I joined a local group that had formed to specifically train for the Seattle Rock n Roll half marathon.
The organizers had a 12-week schedule in place to get us ready by race day, so the distance ramped up pretty fast. Each week had a long run on the weekend with 2 or 3 shorter exercises during the week. My hope was to find a buddy with whom I could pace to pass the grueling time. My husband decided to join us for one of the long runs, almost as a second thought. He was still faster than all of us but decided to continue training with the group, periodically joining us when he could. As the weeks progressed we found that the two of us would spend more and more time together planning our workouts. As the runs increased in length we had to spend more time thinking about hydration, nutrition and gear. This was also a period of time where we were travelling quite a bit and were not able to train with the group.
We had to work together, just the two of us, to plan running routes in other states, in different weather conditions and remind one another to pack the training paraphernalia that we needed to be successful. After the run we would discuss what went well, what we needed to change for next time and how to plan our recovery. It turns out we had a lot in common!
In short, we were spending a huge amount of time, together, planning our training. Never once did we run side by side, but we ran at the same time. We get to the trailhead, share a quick “good luck “ kiss and see one another at the end. We debrief and either reveled in the new PR or commiserated about the bad weather, this is Seattle after all. In fact, I rarely see his face when we run as he is always blazing past me as he turns into a fuzzy, distant spot on the trail.
A big reason why this works for us, and may not for others, is that we are both self -motivated in our training. I do know a number of people who tell me that this model would not work for them because they need that person, right by their side, to keep them moving through the tough times. I do understand that but what would you do if your training partner were sick or injured? Would you stop training as well? Pain and illness do happen and there have been many times my husband or myself would not be able to run. I do miss him when he is not out on the trail, somewhere, with me but I am also comfortable continuing to make progress toward my goals on my own. In this way, we are not too reliant on one another when we are unable to coordinate our schedules .
So, my answer to the query is yes, you are running and training together, even if you are not physically next to one another. We feel very connected by our training goals, as different as they are, and are definitely here to tell others that this can be done.